Day’s Plays Guest Post: John Agnello



[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.

Day’s Plays Guest Post: Ian Prince



[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.

Day’s Plays Guest Post: Chad Clark


[You can hear Chad’s music here.]
Like a crazy person, I took a small stack of records and laid them out on the lawn in front of my studio. Here they are, strewn among the autumn leaves. I did this for musician/poet/photographer Zach Barocas’s Days Plays series.

I’m going to give you a little guide. I’m going to try to be brief. I don’t want to talk too much and try your patience. However, I am not famed for brevity. Here we go.

TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain (Spotify): An album with a blithe, absurd title with pretty dark  content. I’m not sure if it was deliberate, but I feel like this album captures the madness of the post-9/11 Bush era. Favorite song is the opener “I Was A Lover,” which has conspicuously hallucinogenic, druggy lyrics, but it’s druggy in a vivid, authentic way and I like it.

I respect this band and think they’re one of the finest things that’s happened to music in the last 20 years. Consistently substantive and interesting.
In my opinion, TVOTR topped this album with the two subsequent albums, Dear Science and Nine Types Of Light, but Cookie Mountain is still a very strong work and worth revisiting.
Spoon, Transference (Spotify): Man, this record is SO GREAT. I’m told that many devoted Spoon fans find this album weird and irritating. Me, I think it’s BADASS. It has a lot of “imperfect,” grainy, and deliberately scuffed-sounding textures… It sounds alive and physical to me. It is a self-produced album, following two hit albums produced by an outside producer. A bold move to seize the reins at this moment. I like Spoon’s experimental attitude and minimalism. For most Spoon fans, Transference is regarded as a detour. But for me, this is their zenith.
PJ Harvey, To Bring You My Love (Spotify): PJ Harvey’s To Bring You My Love was where she became very interesting to me. I had heard the first two albums and I thought they were cool. But I didn’t become a serious fan until To Bring You My Love. The lore around the first two albums was that PJ Harvey was the name of a trio and Polly Jean Harvey was merely the singer of that trio. But with this album, she dropped that conceit and this is a solo record. My favorite song is the spooky and suggestive “Working For The Man,” which has the best most subsonic bass track. What is being said in that song? It’s not entirely clear, but it has power.

Full disclosure: I bought this vinyl reissue and the accompanying Demos album, but I have not actually opened either or listened yet. Everything I wrote above is based on loving the CD.
Björk, Debut (Spotify): This is a little-known Icelandic singer named Björk. She’s pretty zany, but I think she’s going to make some waves someday. Keep your eye on her.
Blossom Dearie, Blossom Dearie (Spotify): Blossom Dearie was a great American jazz singer and pianist. She had a very clear, airy, flute-like vocal tone… It was clear and resplendent throughout her life. I was introduced to her music when she was an old woman, so I tend to think of her as an old woman. But she was once very young. You can hear that on this fresh-sounding reissue of her 1957 debut. It’s a much younger version of her… and it’s fun to hear her sound so… new. I don’t know how to explain it. Recommend getting this fantastic-sounding piece on vinyl. The medium  just suits the vibe and “analog truth” of the recording.
The Sea and Cake, The Sea And Cake (Bandcamp): The Sea and Cake is a consortium of clever, stylish, white Chicago musicians who unabashedly and lovingly traffic in African sonorities. But it never feels like some cheap pastiche. This is organic, pleasant, sweet, breezy, supple music. This was their debut. It is very different from the very sophisticated, streamlined terrain they later mastered, which involved lots of esoteric analog synthesizers and drum machines. This is a great day-time record. That is something to appreciate. You could play it on a Sunday morning while you make pancakes. Pancake-making music is rare and precious, I say.

Day’s Plays Guest Post: Krista Diem



[You can hear Krista’s music here.]
Khalid, Free Spirit (2019): I love every song on this record. I can sing along, dance to it, exercise to it, clean my apt to it, work to it. I would describe this album as indie R&B pop. It has this strand of positivity throughout it  that just makes me feel good about life. I didn’t think I could get behind an artist that all the millennials are into…. but I can’t deny how good this album is.
Fontaines DC, A Hero’s Death (2020): Their first album I wore out and this one is growing on me. Although I  definitely had a “not as good as the first” moment. Its songs have a very simple repetitive recipe which somehow makes it catchy and not predictable. It’s punk spoken word. It also angers me because their first album was such a success! Their FIRST ALBUM! So annoying when youngsters get acclaim from their first attempt. I am just jaded and jealous (I guess?).
The National, High Violet (2010): Oh man, I remember the day I bought this record. I listened to it every day for months! It reminds me of being depressed in a beautiful setting. Which is what this record is to me… depressing and beautiful. Perfect for COVID times. The velvet deep vocals with almost danceable beats; but maybe you’re just too tired to dance. Lots of hooky choruses… so you can sing along even if you don’t know the words.
Cate LeBon, Reward (2019): Every song has a surprise! interesting instrumentation, a little experimental with hooks! Her voice is feminine but not too girlie. I really like to clap along or shake a shaker to this album. It inspires me to be braver with my writing.
FACS, Void Moments (2020): Massive crush on the female bass player of this band (she also plays drums in other bands). I am quoting someone else here but FACS is like “gothic Fugazi!” Dark, loud and hypnotic. Playing this album in the car is the best, you get to hear all of the intricacies from behind, in front and from both sides.
The Shins, Oh, Inverted World (2001): I haven’t listened to this album in 
years and pulled it out for nostalgia. Oh goodness, James Mercer’s voice is like a cologne from your past. You can’t remember who wore it… all you know is that is gives you “feels.” I don’t have an accurate review of this album… I just love the whole thing, for what it reminds me of: my first attempt at my own music and first experiences of city life in Seattle on my own.

Day’s Plays Guest Post: Dave King



[You can hear Dave’s music here, here, and here.]
Paul Motian Trio, One Time Out (Spotify): Sounds like this only come from these three masters. Joe Lovano, Paul Motian, Bill Frisell — totally personal and powerful music.
Django Bates, Summer Fruits and Unrest (Discogs): One of the most unsung geniuses of creative music this is a masterwork of large ensemble composition with incredible, unique improvisers from the UK.
Little Jimmy Scott, Dream (Spotify): The best evening-cold-weather-jazz-vocal album from the last 40 years by an outsider art master.
Keith Jarrett, Bop Be (Spotify): A super-swinging deeply personal sound from the great American Quartet-era of this genius of the music.
Deerhoof, Future Teenage Cave Artists (Bandcamp): I’m a new fan after not knowing them much and this record is really interesting, like a prog/glam band with West Coast confidence if there is there is such a thing.
Van Halen, Fair Warning (Spotify): Eddie Van Halen was the Charlie Parker of rock music, bar none. RIP.

Day’s Plays Guest Post: Mario Rubalcaba



[You can hear Mario’s music here and here.]
Stereolab / Nurse with Wound, Simple Headphone Mind: Got this when it came out in the 90’s as I was and still am a huge Stereolab fan. This was a tough pull from the get go but I got lucky. This is mixed by the Krauty mind of Nurse with Wound and the track is a superb wash of Dreamy Collage Electronic Krautrock that sails out far into the watery cosmos.
Sonny Vincent, Diamond Distance & Liquid Fury: Primitive 1969-76: This recent overview of hidden treasures owned by NYC punk legend Sonny Vincent is a real treat. How these remained in darkness for so long is crazy, as the songs are strong from every project featured here. Raw and heavy throb is right!
The Dragons, BFI: This “psychedelic jazz-rock” was recorded in 69-70 and 95% of it was unreleased until 2007 when the Ninja Tune label released it. The Dragon bros have a long history in Surf music and beyond. After The Dragons, one of the brothers was later “The Captain” in Captain & Tenille (huh?), and Dennis Dragon did The Surf Punks and tons of music for 80’s skate vids by Powell Peralta. The music here is like no other. Master musicianship and very creative tunes and the recordings they engineered are so good sounding. Really tasty stuff.
Ghetto Brothers, Power-Fuerza:  This is still pretty new to my ears but I am sinking into more and more with every listen. From 1972, it is the lone album by a South Bronx street gang turned activist community organization. Elements of Latin percussion mixed with fuzzy guitar runs, really rhythmic adventures throughout the album, and an amazing story to read about the formation of this band as well.  Killer record.
Wipers, Over the Edge: I got this album on my first tour of Europe back in 1994. Timeless and still inspiring to listen too. Greg Sage really upped his song ante on this album. The Trü downstroke guitar warrior.
Rancid X, Voices: One of, if not the first “punk” band to land a major label deal in Italy. While a song or two has a hard punk edge to it, I’d say this album leans more towards Lou Reed, Rolling Stones, and a hint of T. Rex maybe. One of my favorites. Just a solid Rock & Roll album all the way through.

Day’s Plays Guest Post: Renata Ocampo



[You can hear Renata’s music here or here, and see her embroidery here.]
Anohni, “It’s All over Now, Baby Blue b/w Be My Husband” (2020): Ok, I know this is just a single but I was way too excited by those 2 covers that Anohni released in the beginning of August. I’ve always had fun trying to decide what’s the best cover for Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and I really think this is a winner. Anohni recorded this song and some other Dylan’s covers with Kevin Barker in one afternoon a few years back, encouraged by Hal Willner who just passed away from Covid 19. She said she listened to it recently and it prompted, “a nausea of nostalgia for the suffering of the present, or even the future.” The other cover on this 7” is “Be My Husband” by Nina Simone and it’s actually a live recording from a show at the Knitting Factory in 1999. I had the pleasure to see her live about 14 years ago and it was one of the best shows I’ve seen. It was just her and her piano and I remember she would tell us anecdotes and jokes between every song. Everyone left the room with a smile on their faces.
Moraes Moeira, Moraes Moreira (1975): This is Moraes’s first solo record after playing with one of my favorite bands Novos Baianos. This record came out 3 years after Acabou Chorare and it’s just an explosion of Brazilian influences and rhythms like samba, choro, frevo, and baiao mixed with straight up rock and classical music. He’s definitely a Brazilian darling and we all felt deeply when he passed away from a heart attack back in April. He’s such a legend with his sweet and beautiful voice mixed with his amazing guitar playing. I admit I cried for a whole day when I heard about his passing. We were so lucky to have him.
Os Mutantes, Mutantes e Seus Cometas no Pais do Baurets (1972): I’m going to disagree with the whole world and call this my favorite Os Mutantes record. This is the last recording of the band with singer Rita Lee, that quit to pursue her career as a solo artist. I’m almost tempted to say this record sounds like a good mess but I’m just gonna go and say it’s more like a perfect salad. This record has everything: Brazilian popular music, rock, latin rhythms, jazz… It’s such a fun record and it brings so many good memories of when I was a young teenager in Brazil that it’s almost impossible to imagine that they were not getting along during the recordings. I had the pleasure and honor to open a show for them a couple years ago with my band Warm Sun at the Black Cat, DC. That was the third time I saw them live and it’s always such a party. First time I saw them it was back in Brazil on their first “reunion” show with Arnaldo Baptista and it was an intense emotional trip. I know it’s not the same with just Sergio Dias in the band but it’s still worth it to catching them live.
Bob Marley, Catch A Fire (1973): Will this record ever get old?I remember being 14 and being hooked on this. I try to revisit it every couple years and it really keeps getting better and better. I’m temped to say this might be my favorite record. I recently worked on a PBS documentary about the recording of it, and even though I always say this is a record I would have liked to produce, it doesn’t seem like Chris Blackwell or Tony Platt (producer and engineer) were having the time of their life. It was also interesting to see John Bundrick and Wayne Perkins trying to understand what they were supposed to do in it and getting instructions and encouragement from Marley even though they didn’t quite understood what he was saying. When Marley was asked if Chris Blackwell was his producer he responded, “No, he’s my translator.” He was so right. The record does sounds like nothing else though. I love it.
Cymande, Cymande (1971): I was on a first date with this guy back in Brazil when all of a sudden he gets out of bed and starts playing this to me. I feel like this would’ve annoyed me in any other situation but immediately the first song caught my attention and we spent the rest of the night just talking about the record. I still can’t stop listening to it. This is one of the records that if you start playing everyone will ask about it and you could literally do anything with this in the background. When Devin and I got married, this was playing on repeat in our wedding reception since we couldn’t afford a proper DJ.
The Up On In, Steps For The Light (2000): Yes Zach, I’ve actually been listening to this recently! This record was BIG in the Brazilian punk scene. There was a time when everyone was recommending this record to friends. It was also the first time that I heard drums as its own separate instrument and not just used to keep a beat or tempo. I must say that this record inspired me to be a drummer and still influences me a lot. I’ve been taking a lot of walks recently and I enjoy listening to this while I do so.

Day’s Plays Guest Post: Uli Salazar


[You can learn more about Uli here and here.]
I’ve decided to put the focus of my posts on 2020 releases. Maybe in an attempt to give this year a bright spot. I haven’t spent much time hitting a select group of records during quarantine. Instead, I’ve been spending time listening to my record collection in order from back to front, alphabetically. I’m currently on letter F at Fugazi‘s Repeater. Now, let’s dive into three releases that I really enjoyed spending some time with this year.
Lamb of God, S/T: Admittedly, I don’t listen to metal much, but I certainly have an open mind and appreciation for it. Now and then, there is a metal record that is every bit groove as it is intense, and LOG’s recent self-titled release is undoubtedly one of them. The more natural fluidity of rhythm in these compositions grabbed my attention. Metal to me is a little too abrupt of a stop and go, but the movement of these songs feel really natural and “right”… whatever that means. What I also enjoy about this record is how well it is recorded. Its such a crisp recording with an exceptional balance of the accompanying instruments. This is really key for me to take in a high energy record. What I enjoyed most of this record and this band is their attention to sociopolitical issues in the lyrics. Overall, this record certainly feels like a record this band was supposed to create. It delivers from start to finish, which I’ve been looking for in a 2020 release.
Phantogram, Ceremony: I’ve been a big fan of this group after coming across them as an opener in a radio winter holiday show that I attended for Weezer in 2016. They possess a really interesting sound that blends trip-hop, electronic dance, and rock. It casts a bit of a dark mood, but it’s energetic at the same time. Their 4th full-length, Ceremony, opens up with a more upbeat dance pop vibe. I certainly felt like it was a proper takeoff for the record. Unfortunately, the energy and excitement that comes from that opening track struggles to remain throughout the record. The journey from track to track isn’t as seamless as their earlier releases, but I still appreciate what this record has to offer. “Into Happiness” gives the more familiar dark electronic dance vibe that is sewn into the Phantogram DNA. Overall this feels like a more abstract approach while trying not to be at the same time. I could see how people could dig this record. I’m stoked on the gems this record has, and if it took building the journey of this album to give life to those tracks, I’m glad this record exists as part of their discography. I’m eager to see what comes after this release. Not so much that I need something closer to their first releases, but I feel this sets them up to transition into the next phase of Phantogram.
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, Temple: This is another band that I quickly got hooked on by their unique trip-hop vibes. The thing that makes this band interesting is their ability to jump genres so frequently throughout a record, and even within a song, and then perfectly weave them together for a cohesive arrangement. Temple starts off with the album titled single that immediately captured my attention with a really cool twangy guitar riff. Then in comes a FUNKY bassline quickly followed by a more new-wave vibe drum sequence… and off it goes. This track is made complete with really specific and honest lyrics of her mother’s journey as a Vietnamese refugee. One of my favorite things about this album is how much more it showcases Thao’s unique flow as a vocalist. There is a very Missy Elliot vibe to her flow that I really enjoy. I would summarize it as an avant-garde Rap to verses and chorus. The second track “Phenom” perfectly illustrates that. Another high-point for me on this record is just 4 songs in with a unique indie-rock jam, “Pure Cinema.” A little more of a brighter, upbeat vibe. Then comes, “Marauders,” a love song for her wife that gives off a Phil CollinsIn the Air Tonight” vibe. The album from there keeps on…interesting and authentic to the group’s flawless ability to seamlessly blend in and out of so many genres. The closing track “Marrow” is such a proper closing track that dynamically sets the mood to feel like we’re saying goodbye… for now.