Eric Johnson of The Fruit Bats carries a torch for The Grateful Dead

Eric Johnson and The Grateful Dead

Eric Johnson (photo: Alissa Anderson) and The Grateful Dead

Eric Johnson’s recommendation: “There are few bands as polarizing as this one. Having lived in the indie rock world for the last fifteen years or so, I can recall more than one occasion where a proclamation of my Dead fanhood caused someone to look at me like I was a criminal. Or worse yet, a dirty hippie. I think the general rift was created somewhere in the post-post punk era. I mean, even Greg Ginn and The Ramones were Deadheads. But, anyway, I digress… I think the impassioned and sometimes misguided Deadhead universe is the turnoff for many. The music itself is generally great – the catalog is dense, and if you include the myriad of bootlegs that have been circulating for decades, it can be pretty daunting.”

New to The Grateful Dead? Eric says… “Here are the gateway drugs to the Dead – I once turned a naysayer onto the Grateful Dead by sneakily putting on their self titled 1967 debut. He thought it ruled, and then was pissed when I told him who it was. Then he went out and bought it. It’s a fairly simple slice of San Francisco psych-y nuggets, and if you’re into acid soaked heaviness and hairpin turn chord changes, you’ll probably dig it. Even if you hate the smell of patchouli. American Beauty would be the other choice – one of the truly indispensable masterpieces of west coast country rock. The series finale of “Freaks and Geeks” used two choice cuts off of that disc, a fine musical television moment.”

Eric’s Grateful Dead video pick:

Eric JohnsonAbout the guest author, Eric Johnson: You may know Eric Johnson as a contributing member to The Shins and Vetiver, but his most steady gig has been as the lead force behind The Fruit Bats. If the adjectives ‘rootsy,’ ‘folksy,’ and ‘damn good’ are requirements your music purchases, then the Fruit Bats are most definitely for you. Their Myspace page will help you find out where they are playing live and the clip below, Ruminant Band, will help you realize that their last album of the same title needs to have a spot in your collection.

MP3: Ruminant Band by The Fruit Bats

Rachel Staggs carries a torch for The Raveonettes

Rachel Staggs and The Raveonettes

Rachel Staggs and The Raveonettes

Rachel Staggs’ recommendation: “I love all types of music and have been inspired by many artists in my lifetime. The Raveonettes stand out for quite a few reasons. The first time I heard the EP, Whip It On, I was hooked. The droney, hazy vocals, the surfer guitar infused with distortion and danger, wicked melody, and pop sensibility. How could I not fall in love? I still listen to “Do You Believe Her” or “Beat City” and adore them just as much as the first time I heard them. Plus, the concept behind that EP was genius. All of the songs are in Bflat minor. Then, right out of the gate on Chain Gang of Love (all songs in Bflat major, again, genius), they hit me with “Remember” and my heart was surrounded by a sad love story shimmering in tambourines, fuzz guitars, and smooth, subtle vocal harmonies. The Raveonettes have a way of telling a really heartbreaking story inside a beautiful melody. “Remember” takes me on a Jesus and Mary Chain ride towards the end, but drops me off at Buddy Holly’s house. Buddy Holly might have something to do with this torch I carry. I listened to a lot of Buddy Holly in high school. I was never into The Beatles or The Stones; it was Buddy Holly & Velvet Underground. I was also listening to The Cure, but I really loved Buddy Holly. He made me happy. He made my heart full. I went to college in Lubbock, Texas after growing up in Austin, Texas. Culture shock is putting it lightly. Music is the reason I made it through those years in Lubbock and I like to think Buddy Holly’s energy is still there. The Raveonettes seem to genuinely love Buddy Holly and use his inspiration in a way that resounds with me. They write songs that incorporate all of the elements I love. Vintage sound, heartbreaking guitar lines, fuzz bass, guitar walls of sound, dreamy vocal melodies/harmonies, tambourines, bells, hypnotic drums, and not too much (or any) cymbal. “That Great Love Sound” is a brilliant pop song. I remember seeing/hearing this song live once and after they sang the lyric, “love tornado struck”, Sharin sang, “what the fuck” right in time. Now, I can’t listen to that song without adding “what the fuck” when I sing along. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve seen them live, but I’ve never been disappointed. I’ve seen them with full bands, as a 3-piece, and as a two-piece. I think they pull it off no matter what formation they are in because the love and passion for what they do is palpable. I also appreciate the way they present themselves. There is a vintage essence in everything they do, but it’s fresh and exciting through The Raveonettes kaleidoscope. They have an aesthetic, musically and artistically, that I’m drawn to. They are also really lovely people.”

New to The Raveonettes? Rachel suggests you start here: “What album should a newbie listen to first? I’m going to suggest Lust Lust Lust. The vocal harmonies are stunning. It takes me to that Buddy Holly place the most (“My Heartbeat’s Dying”), but it also gives amazing gusts of distorted melodic guitar, and waves of surf. I can’t get over “With My Eyes Closed” or “The Beat Dies.” In “The Beat Dies.” Sharin’s voice is beautifully intimate and takes me to a dark booth in a 50s diner where the moonlight is hitting some sort of magic crystal and small silver sparkles shine all over the wall. Sune’s guitar line kills me and spins me into a David Lynch dream.”

(Update from Rachel: “While writing this piece, I bought their most recent release, In & Out of Control, and can’t stop listening to it. It’s brilliant. I think it’s a great companion to Lust Lust Lust for those new to their sound.”)

Rachel StaggsAbout the guest author, Rachel Staggs: Rachel is the unmistakable voice that fronts Experimental Aircraft and All in the Golden Afternoon (the latter being a band she performs in with her husband and whose self titled cd can be purchased here). She also has several solo releases under the name Rachel Goldstar. As if this all doesn’t keep her busy enough, she expresses herself through paintings and photographs. More on that at

Rachel Staggs photo credit: Aubrey Edwards

Kate Nash recommends Sleater-Kinney

Kate Nash and Sleater-Kinney

Kate Nash and Sleater Kinney

Kate Nash’s recommendation: “A band that I love is Sleater-Kinney because they write really heartfelt sincere vulnerable music but it’s also tough and has a lot of balls and they do what they want. It feels like a really raw uncensored expression of something, and I love that mix of lyrics that are vulnerable but tough.”

New to Sleater-Kinney? Kate Nash suggests you start with their third album, Dig Me Out

Watch Words and Guitar from Sleater Kinney here:

Kate NashAbout the guest author, Kate Nash: Kate’s career is as Cindarella as it gets. She hoped to work in the theater, but a foot injury nixed that idea. She then turned to songwriting, posted some clips on Myspace, signed with Fiction records and had an album that debuted at #1 in the UK. Her new album is called My Best Friend Is You and she is currently on tour, making appearances at this year’s Lilith Fair. Check her website for more info and her catchy new single here:

Bonus: One of our favorite live clips pairs Kate and Billy Bragg. Yup…it’s a must see medley of Foundations and New England. LOVE IT!

Noel Heroux of Hooray for Earth carries a torch for Oh No Ono

Noel Heroux and Oh No Ono

Noel Heroux and Oh No Ono

Noel Heroux’s recommendation: “Oh No Ono has been the most important find for me in years. Their 2nd LP Eggs came out last year in Denmark, it’s the most exciting album I’ve heard since I discovered Broadcast. Chord changes and melodies never quit, and the production sends me off to get lost in fantastic places in my mind. Every song is an adventure.”

Watch Helplessly Young from Oh No Ono here:

Noel HerouxAbout the guest author, Noel Heroux: Heroux’s band Hooray for Earth had a solid following since it was formed when he was in high school, but the band found a new level of visibility when they were featured in this 2009 ABC Amplified segment. The band makes harmony drenched pop that sticks in your head, as exemplified in the tune, Surrounded By Your Friends. Be sure to check their web site for tour dates and pick up their EP, Momo, here.