[You can learn more about John here.]
The Nude Party, Midnight Manor (Bandcamp): I started mixing this record March 2nd of 2020. The band was on tour. They stopped into to Kaleidoscope Sound on the the afternoon of the 3rd to meet and listen. My last day of mixing was March 10th. We didn’t finish the record on the 10th but we were very close. Coincidently, they played the show on the 10th in Raleigh at Kings. I suggested my wife Sharon go to check em out. They were great. I know a bunch of people that were there and young and old, everyone thought they were great. I drove down to Raleigh on the 11th. Soon after that, the entire country shut down. I finished mix tweaks over the next few weeks and it was released on October 2nd. They are really a fun and exciting band. They are really young with great taste in music. When shows start up again, they are gonna crush it.
Billie Eilish, Live At Third Man Records (YouTube): I happened upon this on one of Record Store Days this fall. Whenever I drive my daughter around with her friends, we listen to “her music”. There’s some shit, but there’s some cool music. Along with a few other artists, Billie Eilish sounds cool to me. I love how it doesn’t sound like anything else on popular radio. Her vocal delivery is understated and powerful at the same time. The songs are quirky. I really like everything about it. On this stripped down live record, she messes up in one of the choruses on “Bad Guy” and just starts laughing. That’s it. Live and real. She’s special.
Father John Misty, Pure Comedy: If this was a book, I’d read it. The lyrics are so great. Every story tells a picture. “Leaving LA” is a 13 minute epic that’s just verses. But each verse is a special bit of storytelling. “Pure Comedy” is a scathing look at the country today. He’s relentless and doesn’t sugar coat it. This is the first FJM I really dug into. I like the previous ones, but this is one of my favorite records of the decade. The sound of his voice and his inflections are perfect. Musically, I feel like he is channeling Elton John sideways on some of the material. Each song has a different dynamic and it flows wonderfully. Like I said, one of my favorites if not favorite from the 2010’s.
Funkadelic, Maggot Brain (Spotify): J Mascis turned me onto the record. It was the mid nineties. He couldn’t believe I never listened to it. The Eddie Hazel shred fest that is “Maggot Brain” and starts the record is a glorious 10 plus minutes. It’s all mood and sound and vibe. So fucking good. And then you realize the rest of the record is fantastic too. Directly after “Maggot Brain” you get the soul/folk/pop of “Can You Get To That”. It is a classic on a very different level. It’s so much fun. The song is a party. Although late in the game, I cherish this record.
Mark Lanegan, I’ll Take Care Of You (Bandcamp): I made a few of the Mark Lanegan Sub Pop records in the 90’s. I had nothing to do with this one. It’s a covers record. It is one of, if not my favorite of, his records. He sings the shit out of every song. His voice is rough but clear. Tough but beautiful. I also love that I don’t really know any of the original songs. So to me there’s a bit of a bonus. It sounds like his record, but then I discover The Gun Club or Fred Neil. He really picked some great songs. I also just finished his book. Sing Backwards And Weep is a dark recounting of the events that lead to him getting sober. I knew him before and I knew him after. I’m happy to say, we are still friends. His singing inspires me.
Teenage Fanclub, Bandwagonesque: One of my favorite records from the 90’s. Also, the band that got away. I was so into this record that when I found out that I might engineer the next one, I was crazy excited. Sadly, it fell through and I was left crushed and sad. I always wanted to record them but it was not meant to be. What struck me about this record was how every song was fantastic, no matter who sang it. Their voices were all complimentary to each other. Harmonies for miles. And song-wise, hooks, hooks, hooks. They also, got some interesting sounds. And they weren’t afraid of guitar feedback. They start “The Concept” with it. And some of my favorite opening lyrics. “She wears denim, wherever she goes, says she’s gonna buy some records by the Status Quo. Oh yeah, oh yeah!” So good.
[You can learn more about Ian’s music here.]
Nils Frahm, Spaces (Bandcamp): I am fortunate to have seen Nils once at the Cedar Cultural Center in MPLS. It was pretty amazing to watch him perform. He had the stage completely full of pianos, synths, analogue delays and whatever else. It was sort of like watching a mad scientist at work. This record, Spaces, is a collection of live recordings, which might be why it’s one of my favorites. Although, you tend to forget it’s live because the music really does take you some place else and it’s only when you hear the occasional applause that you are reminded of it. The music is ambient, beautiful, often minimal, and I’m almost always in the mood to hear it.
Tiny Ruins, Brightly Painted One (Bandcamp): For me this record fits in nicely between Nick Drake’s Pink Moon and Jeremy Enigk’s Return of the Frog Queen. Holly Fullbrook is a songwriter from New Zealand who crafts really beautiful songs that seem effortless and genuine. She plays finger style guitar, which I am a sucker for and is accompanied by very tasteful musicians. To top it off David Lynch produced a 7 inch of theirs, which sounds made up.
Shiner, Schadenfreude (Bandcamp): One of my favorite rock bands of all time came back after 20 years to prove they’re just as good as ever. I wasn’t surprised by this considering who they are as musicians and people — each one uniquely talented and badass. This record goes beyond the total sum of its parts for sure. I don’t always listen to rock, but when I do I listen to Shiner!
David Bazan, Care (Bandcamp): I liked the band Pedro the Lion well enough at the time but feel David Bazan keeps getting better with every record he’s released since. I remember being completely surprised and taken in by the record he did under the name Headphones shortly after Pedro the Lion broke up. Then his solo record Curse Your Branches made me a full-fledged fan. I don’t usually give too much attention to lyrics unless they’re really good or really bad and thankfully his are the former. Such a good songwriter. This record is more electronic based and dark which he does really, really well.
The Kinks, Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround (Spotify): Probably my favorite Kinks record but that’s also impossible to say for sure. I never seem to go very long without playing them on the stereo. There are still so many bands trying hard to write songs like Ray Davies. He was able to take the same chords as everyone else and make magic. This record in particular is full of that magic and spans so many different styles and moods. It’s impossible to put The Kinks in a category and you just can’t go wrong with this record.
Grouper, Ruins (Bandcamp): I guess Liz Harris grew up in a commune and has an interesting backstory but I don’t really need to know any of this to be interested in everything she produces. Her music stands on its own without sounding like anyone else which is good because you can enjoy it for what it is, super beautiful. It’s like watching a bonfire. This record is mostly her voice and a piano. It’s minimal and moody and doesn’t contain any unwanted surprises.