Mars Ganito of Aye Nako recommends Death

Mars Ganito of Aye Nako and the band called Death

Mars Ganito (l) of Aye Nako and Death (r)

Mars Ganito’s artist recommendation: “There are countless artists and bands that I’ve been inspired by since I was a kid, musicians who are the reason I ever picked up a guitar at 13 years old. At first, I wanted to recommend one of those that I grew up listening to, but I feel quite strongly that I must recommend Death (especially after seeing their documentary this summer). Not the metal band, but the proto-punk band of three black brothers formed in 70’s Detroit: Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar), and Dannis (drums) Hackney. I don’t think right now that I can recall a more compelling story about a band than theirs — speaking as another dark-skinned person who plays “rock music,” which is still an agonizingly uncommon sight these days, though, the Afropunk movement is growing all the time. In the documentary, A Band Called Death, one will see how they were just three brothers who really loved each other and loved rock despite the opinions of the community and record studios. Basically, Motor City was not ready for them. They fought to maintain their identity, which meant making sacrifices like not accepting a record deal that was only offered if they would change the name to something easier to swallow. After years of struggling, they gave up on Death, the master tapes sat in an attic, they worked on different musical projects and started families. David grew ill from lung cancer and passed away. My retelling of their story is insufficient. You outght to check out the doc!”

Not familiar with Death? Mars suggests you start here: “A few decades after Death had disbanded, Drag City rereleased For the Whole World to See. It was released as sort of a tribute to David and then people came knocking for the master tapes. The band reformed and added a new guitarist and have been playing shows again. It’s mentioned in the documentary that they truly wrote each song in a way that would showcase how far their talent could go. I have a particular love for Let The World Turn (haunting vocals and guitar in the beginning that send chills up my backbone and a drum solo!). Death might not be the reason why I first picked up guitar, but they are one of the reasons why I continue to.”

Mars GanitoAbout our guest author, Mars Ganito: Mars is the lead singer and guitarist for Aye Nako, a band whose Facebook ‘about’ bio reads, “four weirdos trying to find their confidence/sexuality/harmony/pay day.” The Brooklyn based band is the current poster child for LGBTQ-friendly acts and their reason for being is clearly stated by Mars in this quote from Posture Magazine, “…one of the reasons I play music is to play the songs I wanted to hear as a queer teenager, as someone who is 13 or 14. I wish I had had those songs.” Spin compared them to Superchunk (not bad company to be in, if you ask us) and Mars responded by wishing Spin would have called them the “queer Superchunk.” Sexuality and comparisons aside, the band’s self released debut, Unleash Yourself is one hell of a first album. The collection has already been hailed on Pitchfork and the band has been hand picked by Brooklyn Vegan and Brian Fallon of Gaslight Anthem to play their upcoming upcoming Redbull Sound Selects show in Brooklyn. The band is breaking down doors with their finely tuned power pop and breaking down walls with their gender twisting lyrics. Be sure to snag the debut album and catch one of their upcoming live shows.

Matthew Sweet recommends Alex Chilton and Big Star

Matthew Sweet and Big Star

Matthew Sweet and Big Star

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!”

Related: Paul Westerberg, Craig Finn and others on the passing of Alex Chilton

Matthew SweetAbout 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.

MP3: She Walks the Night by Matthew Sweet

More Praise for Girlfriend:
* Included in Rolling Stone’s Essential Recordings of the 90′s
* Included in Q’s list of the 50 Best Albums Of 1992

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

Rachel Flotard of Visqueen carries a torch for Dave Grohl

Rachel Flotard and Dave Grohl

Rachel Flotard and Dave Grohl

The Foo FightersRachel 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.”

Find out more about David Grohl and The Foo Fighters at their site.

Rachel FlotardAbout the guest author, Rachel Flotard: Rachel fronts Visqueen, the West Coast band that put out what we at 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.)

Visqueen – The Capitol

Related: Visqueen’s bass player, Cristina Bautista on Ted Leo and the Pharmacists.