Anthony McGill solo clarinet: "America the Beautiful"
[You can see Rachel’s work here.]
Stina Nordenstam, The World Is Saved: I first heard “Winter Killing” (the 2nd track on the album) around 2009, when a dear friend put it on a mixed CD for me and 10 other women. I had started this compilation club, where every member was assigned a month and in that month had to make 11 copies of a mix, design the packaging and then send them to the other women in the group. Every month, a new mix would arrive from someone and it was a really great way to hear new music before streaming became a thing. The club got disbanded after CDs became obsolete and we couldn’t figure out how to bridge the technological gap while maintaining the integrity of what was intended to be a physical exchange (because getting something in the mail is super fun). But I digress. “Winter Killing” struck me as sweetly vicious and I really wanted to own the album it contained. Incidentally, an old acquaintance in Portland started Beacon Sound and I remember him telling me years later that he was in the process of getting the rights to ‘The World Is Saved’. I completely forgot he intended to release this record so a few months ago, I emailed him asking if he had anymore copies of the record. He told me that the record had sold out awhile ago but that he might have one in the archives, sparing me having to pay hundreds of dollars on Discogs. It showed up in May and the entire record is witty and vicious in that sweet Scandinavian way. I’ve been playing it daily since. Special shoutout to Andrew at Beacon Sound for doing me such a solid.
Gaussian Curve, The Distance: I don’t have a ton to say about this one except that it was recommended to me by a record store clerk and I love Music From Memory’s design chops. The cover of Nothing Is Objective, by Suso Sáiz, is equally beautiful. So, I’m saying I bought this record for the cover and I stayed for the excellent ambient music it contained. This is one of my primary morning records, where I stare into the middle distance over coffee and get gently lulled into starting my day.
Trentemøller, Obverse: If a record contains even a whiff of darkwave, I will happily welcome it into my collection. I love Trentemøller’s work but this one is special to me because it prominently features a number of my favorite female vocalists. I will take as much Rachel Goswell (Slowdive) and Jenny Lee Lindberg (Warpaint) as I can get. I listen to this record on a loop when I’m in my photo studio. It’s a nice one to dip in and out of, which allows me to notice things I haven’t heard before. This has also been a mainstay in my solo Covid-19 quarantine walks because it has a lot of headphone candy and manages to match any mood I bring to these walks. Anxiety, anger, bliss, gratitude, exhaustion, and more. It’s all there.
This Mortal Coil, Filigree & Shadow: Every TMC record has one song that is worth the purchase of the entire LP and this album’s best song is the cover of Gene Clark’s “Strength of Strings”. It’s so intense, which is saying something because Gene Clark’s “No Other” is one very intense masterpiece from front to back. I accidentally bought Filigree & Shadow twice because I haven’t fully inputed my record collection into Discogs yet, so I don’t always remember which albums I own. I’ve done this many times with albums like Pet Shop Boys’ Please; ELO’s Face the Music; and Man or Astro-Man?’s Is It… Man or Astro-Man? Duplicates make great gifts so I don’t sweat it too much.
Depeche Mode, Violator: This is my favorite record of all time and it would be a real betrayal to not include it in any and all of my lists. I listen to this record a lot and every time in some way feels like the first time. This 1st pressing was gifted to me by my husband because he believes, as with books, everyone should own a 1st pressing of their favorite record. What can I say about this record? People either love Depeche Mode or they don’t, but all Depeche Mode fans know this is their irrefutable masterpiece (even if they happen to like another album more). I have the rose on the cover tattooed on my body, which is very bold because bands are comprised of fallible humans and there’s always a chance they can disappoint you (or worse, become super creeps – just thinking about all the Michael Jackson tattoos out there). So far so good with regard to Depeche Mode, though. I’ll still happily rep for them.
The Spinanes, Manos: This is another example of owning a 1st pressing of my favorite records. ‘Manos’ is the sound of Portland in the 90s. Rebecca Gates is now a friend of mine and every time I hear her voice live or on one of her albums, I am transported to my time of going to shows at La Luna or working at Berbati’s Pan (two venues that sadly no longer exist). When I first heard The Spinanes, it made me feel like there was room in the world for low lady-voices like mine (solid alto over here) and straight forward rock songs that are charming, smart and cutting at the same time. Also, after the recent glut of bands with 8+ members, a guitar and drum duo is so fucking refreshing. If you can get it done with two, why wouldn’t you? As a photographer, I’ve always loved the cover photo. The warmth of the hands/arms/face reminds me of my family’s photos from San Diego in the 70s and makes me deeply nostalgic for those old film stocks.
ISO Isolation: illustrations by Felicia Chiao
[You can hear Chris’s music here and see his films here.]
Yusef Lateef, Psychicemotus: I was lucky enough to study with Yusef in his jazz improvisation course when I was young, and that experience made a lasting impression on me. Lateef’s body of work is prodigious – the man played flute, percussion, arranger, oboe, tenor saxophone, tambourine, Chinese flutes, bamboo flute, and more – but “Psychicemotus” off his 1965 album of the same name very much reminds me of the vibe you would find in his class improv sessions.
PJ Harvey, Rid of Me: In my humble opinion, the title track – and the entire album – is the quintessential Albini sound working at its best. I love Polly Harvey as a songwriter and performer, and this opening track from her 1993 release of the same name works through Albini’s production to capture a raw, unfiltered document of her early style and sound. Forget compression, the dynamics on this track go from whisper quite to blistering fury, and don’t you dare touch the volume knob.
Sam & Dave, Soul Men: I’ve been thinking about Steve Cropper’s guitar playing recently, in particular the amazing simplicity of his iconic riffs. This 1967 track, that everyone should know, has one of what is perhaps the best examples of Cropper’s genius, with that famous opening guitar line consisting of a simple arrangement of notes. Obviously having Isaac Hayes and David Porter as the songwriters and the backing band being Booker T. & the M.G.’s with the Mar-Keys on horns help make this song sound so good.
Thurn & Taxis, EP2: These guys are friends of mine and former musical collaborators, so I’m biased, but I think this track (and every other track) off their 2019 release EP2 is simply fantastic. The compositions are just tremendous examples of musicianship and arrangement, and “Ipoly” in particular has a terrific, triumphant tonal mood to it that I really enjoy. Roll down all the windows in your car and blast this.
Tony Conrad with Faust, Outside the Dream Syndicate: Tony was another artist I had the amazing fortune of studying under, and his outlook on creative production is a major influence in my own work. The title track from this 1973 collaboration with German rock band Faust is probably the most straightforward and approachable thing Tony ever recorded, but it definitely influenced me in my musical pursuits.
Tortoise, Millions Now Living Will Never Die: The opening track off Tortoise’s 1996 release Millions Now living Will Never Die is the song I still consider as being the high-water mark of 90’s post-rock. The movement and interplay of the different instrumental currents is really masterful, and it creates a rich musical narrative weaving throughout the aural environment. I love the band in general, and I’m a fan of their entire catalog, but this track was lighting in a bottle. Put on some headphones and lie back in a hammock to listen to this one.
The idea that art-making is a luxury seems to me beside the point of being an artist. An artist doesn’t dabble or have their practice as a hobby. The artist makes art because it is what they do, whether anyone is looking or listening or not, and whether it comes at a great cost or not. It is not a matter of temperament but rather a matter of nature. Good artists might be made good through study or rehearsal but artists without qualification, good or bad, are born that way.
“I could prove to you that Napoleon never existed – but only because [both] of us learned that he did. That is what ensures that dialogue can continue. It is this intercourse that allows for dialogue, creativity, and freedom.
[T]he Internet gives us everything and forces us to filter it not by the workings of culture, but with our own brains. This risks creating six billion separate encyclopedias, which would prevent any common understanding whatsoever.”
Where one finds poetry depends on where one leaves poetry.