In this edition of The PLaylist we’re speaking with Nick Pratt as we talk about his latest EP “The Badu Sessions” as well as getting to know just who Nick Pratt really is! We Want YOU… To Enter the Shell!
You ever have that thing where you’re telling someone a story about an awesome BBQ place you just went to, and you go into exquisite details on the sauce, the smoky flavor of the ribs, the bacon infused baked beans, and the juiciness of the pulled pork; and they just let you gush on and on about this place you are so hyped about, only to tell you at the end of it all, “actually I’m a vegetarian, I can’t go there”?
Why the fuck do these people let me carry on for what feels like hours, only to shit all over the point moments later? The only reason I’m telling this person about this place is so I can get the word out on good BBQ and it will stay in business so that I can keep eating there.
My point here guys is this: just as I want people getting good into BBQ, I want people digging good music. I write about music here so I can get the word out on GOOD MUSIC. You readers don’t have the time or the energy to waste precious moments of your life reading about bad music. If I started writing about bad music it would be both insulting to you and me. It’s a waste of time. A fucking zero. This is why I have a bone to pick with SPIN.
SPIN’s online site has an ongoing article series titled, Worst New Music. They have what appears to be a staff of writers dedicating their time to writing pieces about stuff that they have deemed isn’t any good. This is a waste of bandwidth and time. If you don’t like an album, a lot of that has to do with your taste in music. When I don’t like something, I’m not going to waste a sentence let alone 5 paragraphs about why I don’t like it. Generally I leave my commentary on music I don’t like to, “it wasn’t for me”. I wish major magazines did the same. Hey SPIN, if you don’t like a band, ignore them. Don’t put up their photo and name on a heavily trafficked site. That gets their name out there. What does that achieve?
I bring this up because this week at the top of this section I found a band called Merchandise. Not only is Merchandise not the “worst new music” but they are actually quite good if their sound is your thing. Merchandise is weird, they’re trying something new, and at times they are really damn fun. Here’s a fuck you to the concept of having a WORST NEW MUSIC column. This week’s ARTIST OF THE WEEK: MERCHANDISE.
Merchandise is comprised of Carson Cox and Dave Vassalotti have been a DIY band for the past five years. They got their start together in high School playing in various hardcore and punk bands holding shows mostly in storage units on the outskirts of town. The punk/ hardcore sound slowly began to fall by the wayside as the band began experimenting with a more 80’s post punk/ proto rock after they began listening to more experimental artists like Jandek and Can.
This altered their initial thrash sound into what it has now become, a Smith’s-esque throw back that can get a crowd moving. Their latest EP Totale Nite really captures that English heartbreak rock era that I once loathed but have now embraced in my softie old age. Cox’s voice even carries that Morrissey accent. It’s kooky. Anxiety’s Door, the single off the record is really a fun track that if played early, will start your off morning right. I jammed to it on my drive in to work and I’ll be damned if it didn’t put me in a great mood.
I hear this song and I can picture my friend Mike rocking out to it a Karaoke night in the near future. He’ll go a little too hard, and the other bar patrons will get uncomfortable. I can’t wait.
The second track Who Are You? continues with the good vibes. It’s a heavily layered mix, lots of instruments going on, putting the listener into a certain haze. This song would fit perfectly in any movie where some guy takes his first hit ever, or has one drink too many, and the party starts to take a turn.
Prior to this most recent release, the band had been pumping out EPs and LPs through their website like it was no one’s business. All of which are still available for free download here
I started with their debut and just powered through them all. It’s interesting when a relatively small band has a bevy of material to sift through. Since they were so young when they started, you can really hear them changing things up as they themselves figure out exactly what they want to be.
Their first release Merchandise is miles away from Totale Nite. The record feels like you’re listening to a conversation between two people suffering from dementia. You really have no idea where things started, where they are going, and what the hell to make of it when it’s over. Songs come out of the gate sounding like ambient experimental rock and then divulge into an endless punk thrash. It’s weird. Their 7’ Es Muerte which came out a few years later shows this same confusion, they lost the experimental elements entirely and went full bore into noise rock. A poor man’s Sonic Youth of sorts.
By the time they released their first LP in 2012 titled Children of Desire, they had mellowed greatly. The drawn out feedback tones had been replaced by the melodic tinkling of a cheap keyboard. The screams had moved aside for reverberated lullabies. On the track Time they really find their sweet spot as they mix in elements of The Cure, The Smiths, and The Pet Shop boys. The video is really something else.
And before you guys go all high and mighty on me for mentioning the Pet Shop Boys in a positive light, let’s all slow down and revisit their song It’s A Sin. It’s crazy danceable and super creepy at the same time. They aren’t making music like this any more. I like this song completely un-ironically. Pass judgment if you still feel it necessary.
SPIN has them as the worst but thems strong words. Words I don’t agree with. There’s something here. They have a cool sound that no one else is trying and they are putting new stuff out CONSISTENTLY. Check them out. At the very least you’ll get a few new dancing jams for your 80’s themed parties. Get into it guys.
In this edition of the ETS Show, we’re bringing the summer early as we invite Casey Turner to the Noho2 Studio! He brings with him a Ukelele and Guitar as he loops them to create a unique vibe!!! We want You… To Enter The Shell!
Greg Friedman is the playful jester of the indie world, gleefully tossing bits of heartfelt sentiment, idiosyncratic quirkiness, pop culture and whatever genre strikes his fancy against the wall to see what sticks. His latest release Can’t Talk Now finds Friedman dabbling in Scissor Sisters sleaze-funk one moment before launching into a tender anthem about a beloved stray dog named Pancake the next. Sprinkled throughout with lush, Nick Drake-inspired balladry, the record is a bit like being tossed into a pop blender, seeing obvious guideposts and influences along the way, while simultaneously being swept up in Frieidman’s own unique vision.
In This episode of The PLaylist we’re traveling to Tennessee to speak withChristmas In Vietnam members Jimmy & Spent! This is an exclusive interview with one of the most elusive bands! The band was also kind enough to let us debut an acoustic version of Circles! It’s almost too much Show! We Want YOU… To Enter The Shell!
It took me a long time to find someone who could cut my hair right. In my early 20’s I avoided cuts like they were the plague. While in college my move was to throw a ragged Red Sox hat atop the ugly mop that cascaded from my skull to keep it out of sight and out of mind. It wasn’t until I started dating a hair dresser 10 years my senior did I realize that a good trim is a necessity to good hygiene. Undoubtedly this relationship soon went south.
Being a 22 year old jackass, I thought it would be totally okay to continue hitting her up for free haircuts. Why wouldn’t it be? Why wouldn’t she still be down to do me continuous favors after I left her high and dry with no good explanation? She couldn’t possibly be holding a grudge right?
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s how you unknowingly end up with a mullet.
I went in for my cut, she cleaned up the sides, cropped the top, but unbeknownst to me, she left that back water-falling. After that happened, I had a really hard time trusting anyone near my follicles. Mullet me once, shame on me. Mullet it me two times, I’m just an asshole looking to get a mullet
So continued my habit of going months at a time without a chop. Sure I tried different spots. Floyd’s 62, an establishment operated by heavyset chicks with purple hair and daddy issues, was my first move. Not only did I never get a good cut but each mediocre effort was followed by a uncomfortable “massage” occurrence. I’m already uncomfortable with people touching my hair, I certainly don’t want a stranger going all shiatsu on my shoulder blades. Especially after listening to them complain how their baby daddy needs to step up to the plate or his visitation rights are going the way of the Dodo. They’re big on the over share at Floyd’s. Then there was Super Cuts. What can you say about a place that charges $7 for a visit?
It took me three years to finally find Rudy’s. There I met Casey. He had the haircut I wanted so I just told him, “give me what you’ve got.” I was in and out in 10 minutes. I left looking fantastic. I had six cuts with the man. Then he left me. He left me for the big city and big dreams of New York. During all of those cuts there were three topics we hit on: baseball, football, and Neutral Milk Hotel. This one’s for you Casey. This Week’s Artist of The Week: Neutral Milk Hotel.
Formed in the early 90’s Neutral Milk Hotel was the brainchild of lead singer/ guitarist/ composer Jeff Mangum. The then unemployed Mangum spent his days traveling the county, crashing on couches, and playing music. He released a series of demos and one-off cassettes under the moniker Milk. Many were circulated without any official release back and have now become coveted collectors items.
These cassettes like Mangum himself were complex, erratic, and often beautiful. Not only do they feature early tracks from a man that would become an icon, but also a varying array of strange experimental soundscapes, as well as :59 second interludes of screaming over muffled music. These demos give an idea of the what was to come from Mangum and Neutral Milk Hotel.
The first official release from Neutral Milk Hotel titled On Avery Island came in 1996. This album featured Mangum backed by a collection of fellow Elephant 6 Label musicians brought in for studio work. The album is…strange. It’s not quite indie-rock. It’s not quite folk rock. It’s not all out experimental. It’s a mash up. There are upbeat rock tracks like Gardenhead/ Leave Me Alone.
Heart breaking folk songs that push the listener to tears like April 8th
and insane experimental instrumentals like Pree Sisters Swallowing A Donkey’s Eye
For Neutral Milk Hotel, On Avery Island was like the first round of a boxing match. Feeling things out. Finding out what works and what doesn’t. Never fully commits to one sound. This at times can cause the record to feel a bit disjointed. Not as much an album, more of a mix tape. The one constant throughout though are his lyrics. His words are poetic and vivid. In the realm of 90’s lyricists, I lump him with Cobain in that, often times the words on their own don’t seem to make sense but when strung together in song, they are powerfully moving. After the release Mangum found the permanent members that would come to make up Neutral Milk Hotel, Scott Spillane, Jeremy Barnes, and Julian Koster. Despite the addition of backing, the band was and always will be Jeff Mangum’s alone.
Two years later they released the critically acclaimed In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. It was inspired by the story of Anne Frank, written by Mangum after having recurring dreams about WWII. The record takes everything that worked on Avery Island and expands upon it. This is a true album. The songs flow succinctly one after another in a perfect stream, rising and falling, taking the listener on a wondrous 40-minute ride. The opening track King Of Carrot Flowers Part 1 sucks you in right of the bat. Mangum’s vocal style is unique and draws you in with its’ undeniable vulnerability. There’s an audible strain in his voice that makes the subject matter hit home that much harder.
The arraignments and instrumentation on the album are intricate and lovely. There are so many background sounds going on that the subtle nuances heard by simply putting on a pair of headphones, as opposed to a set of speakers, is astounding. My favorite track on the record is the up-beat and chaotic Anne Frank shout out Holland, 1945. It’s one of the saddest songs I know, but when the band starts up, I can’t help but feel the need to dance.
I recommend everyone sit down, imbibe a substance or two, and listen to Aeroplane all the way through. This was a very important album to a young Kelly McD, as well as many popular indie bands that we know today (Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, Bon Iver). They recently reissued the record with an accompanying book with words from these very artists that you can pick up on Amazon. Do it.
The band went on a yearlong worldwide tour with Aeroplane. That can be grueling on anyone, especially if you tend to have a more fragile personality, which Mangum defiantly has. They played their last show in October of 1998. Maybe it was the fame, maybe it was the touring, perhaps it was the media, whatever it was, Mangum had a break down. Something sent Jeff Mangum into the shadows and he took Neutral Milk Hotel with him. The group disbanded in 1998. For the most part Mangum has stayed out of the limelight returning to the stage sparingly, usually only to promote various charities. Mangum is often asked about making another album, but has given no indication that it will ever happen. Outside of a few bar gigs here and there, his only big appearance in the past 15 years came in 2012 when he appeared at the Coachella Music Festival. It seems odd for a guy who hates big crowds, phony media persona’s, and being in the spot light, to have his first big show at a music festival attended by 150,000 people that are generally some of the biggest ass bags in Southern California. I’m just saying man, baby steps. Plus it’s very hot there.
That said this band is one of my favorites of all time. Maybe Mangum flew too close to the sun and lost both his wings and his mind. That’s okay. He’s got two albums in his back pocket, one of which is considered by many to be the most influential indie-rock album of the past 20 years. He doesn’t need to make more music. He’s done that. Now he can go cobble shoes somewhere like he’s Daniel Day Lewis or something.
Check them out. Great band. Great songs. Party on.