Westin Glass of The Thermals carries a torch for The Velvet Teen

Westin Glass and The Velvet Teen

Westin Glass and The Velvet Teen

Westin Glass’ recommendation: “The Velvet Teen is an exquisite and chimerical Northern California band whose ever-evolving emotive post-rock sound never fails to inspire me. Judah Nagler has been the one consistent member of the band and the fountainhead of their amazing, eclectic body of work since 1999. He is a musical genius who can write, sing, and play every instrument way better than you or I or any other mortal. The rest of the band’s members are no slackers, either! The Velvet Teen has experienced a number of lineup changes since it began in 1999, including the tragic 2006 death of drummer Logan Whitehurst, from brain cancer. When we were recently mixing our new record with Chris Walla (who produced their first full-length, Out of the Fierce Parade, in 2002), Chris described Judah as “one of those people who can just… reach out and pick the fruit [of musical inspiration].” It’s true! This band could be bigger than, say, Muse right now if they wanted to. Every new record completely reinvents their sound, and blows most other bands out of the water with its complexity and sheer beauty.

In the fall of 2007 I was lucky enough to share a package tour with them, and got to watch them play 32 consecutive shows. I never got tired of their set. As far as I know, they haven’t toured since then; but I have heard tell they have another album recorded and they have been playing shows around the San Jose/Petaluma area recently, so we can hope they will return to blow our minds once again. In addition to Judah on bass, their current lineup includes Matthew Izen on guitar, Casey Dietz on drums, and founding member Josh Staples on guitar.”

New to The Velvet Teen? Westin recommends you start here: “If you’re new to The Velvet Teen, I would recommend starting with Out of the Fierce Parade, their 2002 debut LP. As I said before, Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla produced it (so you know it sounds incredible), and it’s an excellent and accessible introduction to their dizzying, aching, hyperemotional hurricane of sound.”

Westin GlassAbout the guest author, Westin Glass: Westin is the drummer for one of Rock Torch’s favorite alternative bands, The Thermals. The band has put out four wonderful albums and their next offering, Personal Life is set to drop on September 7th. The masterful Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie) is producing for the band once again, using the same live-to-tape techniques that he deployed on the band’s 2004 collection, Fuckin a. Be sure to check The Thermals’ official web site for tour dates (beginning in July) and for updates about the new album.

MP3: Now We Can See by The Thermals from their album of the same title.

AND…here is a preview cut from their upcoming album, Personal Life

MP3: I Don’t Believe You

Related: Thermals lead singer Hutch Harris’ recommendation of The Breeders

Mark Sasso of Elliott BROOD carries a torch for The Jayhawks

Mark Sasso of Elliot Brood and The Jayhawks

Mark Sasso and The Jayhawks

Mark Sasso’s recommendation: “A slew of bands flood into my head when I think about which band or artist have had a profound influence on me. They can range anywhere from Neil Young to Simon and Garfunkel, The Rolling Stones and The Band to present day groups like Grant Lee Buffalo, Richard Buckner, The Weakerthans, Wilco and lately Blitzen Trapper, Damien Jurado and the Avett Brothers. But one band that I feel inspired me early in my teenage years and never really seemed to get the acclaim or main stream attention they rightly deserved was The Jayhawks. The band excelled at great song writing and are one of my all time favorites. They were at their best with the song writing duo of Gary Louris and Mark Olson. Olson and Louris had a way of allowing their charm and brilliance to bleed right into their songs. Their distinctive singing style is a trademark all their own, that coupled with their soulful melodies is pure gold.”

New to The Jayhawks? Mark recommends you start here: “On Tomorrow Green Grass, their second album with American Records (their fourth studio album). This collection of songs blew me away from the first listen. I spent one summer devouring it daily and petty soon that tuned into a year. Its that special type of album that grows older with you. Still one of my all time favorites and definitely worth the listen. Best enjoyed on sunny afternoons lounging by the beach or during a car ride to the cottage and finally sitting by the campfire at the end of the day.”

Mark’s track picks are:
“Blue”
“Over my shoulder”
“See him on the Street”"

Mark SassoAbout the guest author, Mark Sasso: Sasso is the lead singer and guitarist for the alt-country/traditional outfit, Elliot BROOD (explanation of the band name here). The band’s 2005 release, Ambassador was nominated for a Juno award and their high energy show helped them secure gigs alongside the likes of Wilco and Calexico. Their 2008 release, Mountain Meadows was also nominated for 2 Juno awards was and short listed for the 2009 Polaris Prize. Canada and Europe…be sure to check their upcoming tour dates on the official Elliott BROOD website.

Justin Angelo Morey of The Black Hollies carries a torch for Nation of Ulysses, The Who, Spacemen 3, Small Faces and Unwound

Justin Angelo Morey’s recommendations: “There are many influences constantly decorating my mind therefore it’s quite difficult for me to produce a single artist/band. I listen to many old 60′s Soul/Freak-Beat 45rpm vinyl records. Some are names familiar to many but the majority consists of obscure artists that never hit one out of the ball park and are sadly underappreciated by the mainstream. Taking that factor into consideration, it’s probably best to select from artists/groups that produced more than one single.

Lately I’ve been rediscovering the sounds that invaded my head while attending high school. Playing them at loud volumes make my sad moments go away for a little while. It is impossible for me to pick only one. Can I list a couple? I’m going to assume your response was, “yes, go ahead.”

1. Nation of Ulysses
Why? They are responsible for a major change in my life. Had I not witnessed their perormance live before my very eyes, who knows how I may have turned out? I’m forever in debt to what they provided me then and will always be inspired by everything they managed to produce within their short existance. There will never be another band like them ever again. They were the perfection combination of everything.

Album picks: 13-Point Program To Destroy America and Plays Pretty for Baby

2. The Who (nothing after late 1967)
Why? The first song I ever played on guitar with a group of other kids from my 8th grade class was, My Generation. We would do the ending and Eric Christ would kick the bass drum over like Keith Moon and Mike Muriel would take the alluminum music stand and scrape the classroom floor to produce a sound equivelant to nails running down a chalk board. The early Who are so damn good and explosive. I wanted to be Keith Moon. I’m not a fan of their later stuff but there are plenty of people that are so my opinion won’t ever break their bank and everyone wins.

Album Pick: A Quick One (Happy Jack)

3. Spacemen 3
Why? Back in the glory days of MTV, videos were actually played and in addition to Headbanger’s Ball, there was another late night show called 120 Minutes. I used to tune in every Sunday night and was turned on to all sorts of different artists/bands that I never knew existed. One of those videos happened to be, Revolution by Spacemen 3. The song itself was just so unlike anything that I had been listening to at the time and the video was strange to me. They just appeared as if they didn’t care to be there. Almost completely the opposite of anyone in frot of a camera. I rediscovered them about two years ago and now I’m pulled deeply inside of their work. Amazing!!!

Album Pick: The Perfect Prescription

4. Small Faces
Why? Four white British guys from East London that manged to pull of Soul/R&B/Psychedelic/Pop sounds better than anyone on the scene back then and now. Their chemistry is so brilliant it’s sad that they never really became gigantic. Their self titled debut LP for Decca contains some of the most raw and exciting moments captured to tape. Their version of, You Need Loving (1966) BLOWS Zeppelin’s later version (retitled to avoid any confusion or lawsuits or comparisons from You Need Love (1962) by Muddy Waters ), Whole Lotta Love (1969) to bits and pieces. That’s one example but their work produced during their Immediate records period was more colorful and delicately layered for maximum listening pleasure. Again, totally underated. Ronnie Lane is definitely one of my most favorite bass players of all time.

Album Picks: Small Faces (40 Anniversary Edition) and 35th Anniversary

5. Unwound
Why? Unwound were one of the groups that inspired me to explore different approachs to producing sounds in my music. They created truly incredible compositions and all the live shows i was fortunate to attend were magical. I remember seeing them in a basement in NJ. The show was up close and intimate and just so personal. I can recall feeling very connected to their creative output. One time when they played at Maxwells, I got my nerve up and asked Justin if they could play Broken E String. I didn’t expect anything in return so you can imagine how elated I was when they opened their set with the song I requested. I’ll never forget how happy that made me.”

Album Pick: New Plastic Ideas

Justin Angelo MoreAbout the guest author, Justin Angelo More: Justin is the lead singing bass player for The Black Hollies, a ’60s influenced band that proudly wears influences on their sleeves. They hail from and remain in Jersey City, NJ, so they easily slide across the Hudson to the hip, hip, hip Brooklyn venues and have upcoming dates that can be found on their My Space page here. To get a feel for their ultra-retro grooves, sample the mp3 below from their last release, Softly Towards the Light

MP3: Gloomy Monday Morning by The Black Hollies

Nick Hornby carries a torch for Marah

Nick Hornby and Marah members David Bielanko and Christine Smith

Nick Hornby and Marah

Editor’s note: Yeah, we know…Nick Hornby, the acclaimed author of High Fidelity and About A Boy, is not a musician…so why is he quoted here on Rocktorch.com? Well, we’re making an exception, dammit, because there’s a new Marah record coming out on June 22 that you can order now and the band is currently on tour, so let’s celebrate the band by looking back at one one of the most passionate endorsements of a band that you’ll ever read:

“…what I love about {Marah} is that I can hear everything I ever loved about rock music in their recordings and in their live shows. Indeed, in the shows you can often hear their love for the rock canon uninflected — they play covers of the Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait,” or the Jam’s “In the City,” and they usually end with a riffed-up version of the O’Jays’ “Love Train.” They play an original called “The Catfisherman” with a great big Bo Diddley beat, and they quote the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” and the Who’s “Magic Bus.” And they do this not because they’re a bar band and people expect cover versions, but because they are unafraid of showing where their music comes from, and unafraid of the comparisons that will ensue…”

–Nick Hornby for the New York Times (2004), full article here

MP3: Valley Farm Song by Marah from their new album, Life Is A Problem