Matthew Sweet’s recommendation: “A band I really continue to dig is Big Star. I would suggest their Radio City album as a start, but also the off-the-rails followup, Third (also called Sister Lovers). #1 Record is also a classic, and features tremendous stuff by band mate Chris Bell. Alex Chilton had a commanding slant in the delivery of his various personal sides, and was as unafraid of extreme musical intimacy as he was delivering a raging rant. In this regard, Alex, to me, was like a John Lennon, someone who put all his feelings into song and had a great courage in his reaching. Beyond all this, crazy great guitars and drums are to be had throughout Big Star’s work. I highly recommend checking them out!”
About our guest author, Matthew Sweet: You simply cannot talk about ’90s alternative music without recognizing the impact of Matthew Sweet. Literally there from the beginning, he worked with Michael Stipe pre-R.E.M., was in a band with Stipe’s sister in the ’80s and then went on to put out THE definitive power pop album (a claim that is backed up by this AV Club article with more accolades at the bottom of this post), Girlfriend, in 1991. From there came excellent guitar driven follow-ups, but Sweet also collaborated on the harmony drenched Thorns record (with Pete Droge and Shawn Mullins) and teamed up with Susanna Hoffs to record a pair of excellent cover records. In conjunction with the twentieth anniversary of Girlfriend, Sweet is back with a new collection titled Modern Art, an album that oozes with Beatles, Byrds, Beach Boys and Big Star flavors. Matthew is on tour now, supporting his new record and playing past favorites.
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.”
About 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.
Rachel Flotard’s recommendation: “There’s nothing like the urgency of the first Foo’s record. The ray gun basically shot me in the face, and I’ve always had a hut in my heart for it. Maybe it was because I was a recent Seattle transplant at the time, or that my inner-sterno was lit and my own songs were surfacing, but he/they just struck a chord with me. Always liked how scrappy-romantic and powerful it felt. Plus, any jovial brother that wallops the skins and cranks is good by me.”
About the guest author, Rachel Flotard: Rachel fronts Visqueen, the West Coast band that put out what we at Rocktorch.com consider the most perfect pop record of 2009, Message To Garcia. Rachel’s own words best describe record: “These songs are my friends. I wrote them through a long ride of self-conscious anguish and joy. They are braided with sunny, ubiquitous problems and snare drums. They reflect the part of me that wants to be happy and make out with Bad Company.”
Rachel, who was classified as “the human incarnation of the Energizer Bunny” by NPR, and the band are bringing their non-stop barrage of power pop and harmonies to a town near you, so check the tour page now and buy your tickets. (Rachel also seems to have a killer sense of humor. For those of you who caught the Springsteen reference in the photo to the left, you’re gonna love this pic.)
Hutch Harris’ recommendation: “Kim Deal is definitely my number one inspiration/role model/crush, and she has been almost as long as I’ve been playing guitar and writing songs. Not only was she a member of The Pixies, the group whose records serve as the bible for alternative rock, but she created one of my favorite bands of all time, The Breeders! I’ve had the pleasure to meet Kim Deal on a few occasions, and she was always incredibly friendly and down to earth. One time at a Breeders show she was just hanging out at the merch table, free to talk with any fans who wanted to bug her. I couldn’t fucking believe it! An amazing musician/songwriter and a total sweetheart/babe. She’s got it all!”
New to Kim Deal and The Breeders? Start here: “Pod and Last Splash were both hugely influential records for me. Besides blowing my young, stoned teenage mind on daily basis, these records showed me that songs could be very simple and still convey complex ideas and emotions. These records are rudimentary, but textured and psychedelic in a very modern (90′s) kind of way. Last Splash is obviously one of the best records of the 90′s, and defines that entire era for me. Not as serious as Nevermind, not as self-obsessed as Siamese Dream, but rocks as hard as both.”
Listen to a track from the album:
About the guest author, Hutch Harris: Hutch is the frontman for The Thermals, an indie rock group from Portland, Oregon. Their first offering, More Parts Per Million, was mixed from Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla (who is set to produce their upcoming album). They are now in support of their Breederish collection, Now We Can See.
Check the official Thermals site for developments on their new album and tour dates.