Jared Molyneux’s artist recommendation: “I want to tell you all about one of my favorite bands, TodaysHits (pronounced Today’s Hits) from Chicago, Illinois. The first thing that I usually tell people about the band is that James Swanberg, the principal member of the group, writes, records and posts online to Tumblr one song every day. The second thing is that now, James is nearing his 1,000th day.
I first encountered the band on a trip to Chicago a few years back, only a couple hundred days into the project. At that point the band was just James on the mic and playing a Casio. Soon after it absorbed some guys from some of my other Chicago favorites, Magic Milk and The Sueves, and since then it has grown so that now, aside from keeping to the song a day regimen, they run their own cassette label Tripp Tapes, tour the country, and have upcoming releases on Burger Records, Gnar Tapes and Randy Records.
Now, not only is it impressive to me that they are able to stick to writing a song a day for so long, but also the sheer number of true “hits” that come from the process. You might expect a song a day to produce a lot of filler to just get some material posted by midnight, but that is not the case with a lot of these pop gems. TodaysHits’ particular brand of rock and roll is well suited by many of the aspects of music production that their rapid pace necessitates. A song a day ensures a minimalism in instrumentation with the result bearing heavy resemblance to the 50’s jams that TodaysHits numbers always bring me back to. Also, a song a day means primarily home recording, nothing fancy, which makes it perfect. It sounds the way black and white TV looks, you see everything you need to, nothing more and nothing less. None of this hi-res, hi-fi, hi-def where a mole on Vin Diesel’s ass is visible from fifty yards … no one wants that. All this said, their live performance is even better than the recordings. Their melodies are relentlessly catchy and their lyrics are so clear and relatable that they completely entrance the audience. They don’t play very fast nor very loud, but they manage to get everyone’s hearts beating and feet moving.
I think the spirit of TodaysHits is well illustrated by the image of James’ apartment, which I saw recently for the first time. I knew he had lived there for a while, which is why when I first walked in I was surprised. It’s pretty much empty. It reminded me of the pictures of Syd Barrett in his empty apartment on the cover of Madcap Laughs. That’s when it became clear to me that all this guy does is write songs (both when he is and isn’t slinging bottles at the liquor store down the street). In the middle of the bare living room is a curious five foot tall stack of Olde English boxes. I asked him what they were for and he told me that this was the radio tower from which the hits are broadcasted to the world. This is the only place in the apartment he can get his neighbors’ internet in order to upload the songs. Throughout the course of the project, speaker and headphone jacks have broken, computers have broken, mixes have been done blindly, but equipment breaking never means missing a day.”
New to TodaysHits? Jared suggests you start here: “With TodaysHits, aside from the undeniably catchy stripped down songs that are in extreme abundance, it is the spirit of the whole thing that captures me. See for yourself, you can find all of their songs archived on the TodaysHits Tumblr as well as some favorites catalogued into collections on TodaysHits Band Camp page. Also, look out for their new tape “Gourmet Jerks” out soon on Burger Records and Gnar Tapes and their new 7” on Randy.”
About our guest author, Jared Molyneux: When listening to this year’s Music Fest NW broadcast, KEXP broadcasters announced that we’d be hearing a set from their ‘favorite new band.’ Rock Torch HQ sat in a hush waiting for the band name to be revealed. And…it’s…THE SHIVAS, and they killed it at MFNW. We were late to learning about the band, so big thanks to KEXP for schooling us about these guys. They’re garage, surf, harmonized, low-fi, retro and most important of all, fun to listen to. The Shivas (whose name is taken from the Hindu god of destruction and restoration) hails from Portland, OR and recently released a fantastic LP, Whiteout! on K Records. They also impressively won the opening slot on a slew of dates opening for The Dandy Warhols. Now that KEXP has effectively spread the word, you have no excuse – get on board with this very great band. Check The Shivas website for tour info, news and more.