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Listed: Mary Halvorson + Home Blitz

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Dusted Features

Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Brooklyn composer Mary Halvorson and New Jersey wunderkind Home Blitz.

Listed: Mary Halvorson + Home Blitz

Mary Halvorson

Jason Bivins named guitarist/composer Mary Halvorson as one of Dusted’s Destined for 2009, and she’s done nothing to prove us wrong yet. Since studying with Anthony Braxton at Wesleyan University, Halvorson has gone on to play with many of the leading figures in avant-garde jazz – including Tim Berne, Taylor Ho Bynum, Trevor Dunn, Tomas Fujiwara, Curtis Hasselbring, Tony Malaby, Myra Melford, Nicole Mitchell, Jason Moran, Marc Ribot, Matana Roberts, Elliott Sharp, John Tchicai and Matthew Welch. In addition to her own bands, the Mary Halvorson Trio and Quintet, she co-leads a chamber music duo with violist Jessica Pavone and the avant-rock band People, with drummer Kevin Shea. For those in New York City, Halvorson’s Quintet plays Roulette on March 18. More info here.

1. Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom
Rock Bottom is the first album I heard by Robert Wyatt, and although I love pretty much everything he does, this is the album I keep coming back to. I played it pretty much continuously for about a year and a half when I first heard it. Miraculously, after that year and a half, it still retains the same power and intensity with each listen.

2. The Soft Machine - The Soft Machine
On an earlier Robert Wyatt tip, this album is also great; and with a completely opposite energy and feeling.

3. Wayne Shorter - The Soothsayer
And speaking of listening to things over and over again, the first track on this, “Lost,” is one of my all-time favorite jazz standards, and probably my favorite Wayne Shorter composition. The Soothsayer is also a likely candidate for my favorite Wayne album, although that varies depending on when you ask me.

4. Yusef Lateef - Live at Pep’s
The fifth track, “Gee Sam Gee,” is another obsessive listen for me. My original CD of this is so old and worn in that it skips and sounds sort of like an old record now. I ended up having to buy it twice! All the musicians on this are incredible. I modeled one of the compositions for my trio after this song.

5. Sam Cooke & The Soul Stirrers - Complete Recordings
I love Sam Cooke, and the Soul Stirrers stuff is my absolute favorite.

6. Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane - At Carnegie Hall
This recording is my latest obsession. Probably an obvious one, but hey. Coltrane’s playing on this is completely insane, and I love how Monk just lays out and Coltrane takes off.

7. John Coltrane - Ole Coltrane
I stole this record from my dad’s collection when I was a teenager. I love pretty much every Coltrane record, but for some reason I always come back to this one, especially the last two tracks. Eric Dolphy’s playing is great on this.

8. Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity
Deerhoof is one of my favorite avant-rock bands, and I am a huge fan of John Dieterich’s guitar playing in particular. As with many bands I love, it’s hard to pick my favorite album. I chose Friend Opportunity because all the tracks are really developed, beautiful and unique.

9. Sam Rivers - Fuchsia Swing Song
Fuchsia Swing Song is a record I came across early that really influenced me when I was discovering jazz. Jaki Byard is especially great on this. “Beatrice” is one of my all time favorite songs.

10. Air - Airmail
Airmail was a true revelation, and a steppingstone into a whole new world of music. I especially love the track “R.B.”

Home Blitz

Home Blitz started as the one-man basement fuzz punk project of Daniel DiMaggio, back in the mid-aughts, and Dusted’s Doug Mosurock was one of the first to spot the self-titled 7” (“as fine an example of outsider DIY 4-track brilliance as can be imagined”). Since then DiMaggio has picked up a full band that includes bassist Jason Sigal of Lame Drivers and Great Excape and Theresa Smith on guitar. (MySpace says they’re looking for a drummer.) Emerson Dameron, reviewing 2010’s Out of Phase, called them, “playful without being self-aware, confident without getting comfortable, and far too odd to cross over.”

I just listed things that start with C, so here are some of my favorite records by artists starting with that letter.

1. Cockney RebelThe Psychomodo
This record, Cockney Rebel’s sophomore LP, is pretty unbelievable and awesome. It has great songs that are put over the top by Steve Harley’s impossibly mincing vocals and near-Tourette ejaculations, and the whole thing adds up to a kind of weird hostile art-glam that I wish more records sounded like (the closest I’ve heard, besides the first CR LP, are some of the songs on Peter Hammill’s Nadir’s Big Chance, but that record isn’t as funny and cool as this one). “Cavaliers,” which starts off side 2, is one of the very few songs I’ve heard that totally shocked me on first listen. It clocks in at over eight minutes as seriously the most demented and over the top teen angst song of all time. “I’d love to have God next to me with his hands around my throat in harmony / looking for a suitable bitch to crucify.” Totally monumental.

2. Cock SparrerShock Troops
This is definitely one of the best albums ever. It rules and makes whatever you’re doing awesome. I distinctly remember around a year ago walking to work hungover at 9 a.m. on a Saturday in the rain, and it ruled cause I was listening to Shock Troops. I also like that this album was released after Cock Sparrer had already been a band for like 11 years, and that there consequently seems to be some world-weariness to the lyrics, as songs like “Where Are They Now” and “Take ‘Em All” concern events from the band’s younger days.

3. Cyrus Erie – “Get The Message” 45
This is the only record by this pre-Raspberries Eric Carmen vehicle. Despite being released in 1969, “Get The Message” has no traces of dumb ‘60s music but is instead excellent proto-powerpop with sick harmonies and handclaps. The other side’s not as hot.

4. Cage – “Radiohead/Agent Orange” 12”
This is probably my favorite double-sided single of all time. Hearing this record changed my life and my only positive memories from freshman year of college are of walking around listening to Cage CDs on headphones. These are the two weirdest and harshest rap songs ever, only surpassed maybe by some of the unreleased tracks on the Cage rarities mixtape For Your Box. Produced by Necro, whose finest moment, as much as I like some of his other work, was definitely just looping 45 seconds of the Clockwork Orange theme music as heard on the 2nd side of this record. I wouldn’t think that songs about PCP and sewing girls’ vaginas shut would make me happier to be alive than anything else on earth, but what’re you gonna do?

5. Elvis Costello & The Brodsky QuartetThe Juliet Letters
I like Elvis Costello a lot and this 1993 release is probably my second or third favorite of his albums. It’s a “song sequence” wherein Elvis wrote lyrics based on letters from real people to Shakespeare’s imaginary character of Juliet and then the Brodsky string quartet set them to music, I think. Everything was recorded live and acoustic, which gives the record a very unique and intimate feel. The results are alternately sad, poignant, and funny (kind of), ranging from short abrupt sketches to beautifully affecting songs like “Jacksons, Monk and Rowe.” This album has a real kind of early ‘90s boho NPR vibe that I usually wouldn’t be down with, but which here works wonderfully.

6. CulturcideYear One
This is the only Culturcide record I’ve ever heard. From what I understand, their other records involve ‘culture jamming’-style parodies of popular songs, which doesn’t sound too exciting to me, but this LP, despite containing interpolations of “Start Me Up” and “All Along The Watchtower,” is pleasingly aggro all the way through. Hearing Perry Webb mumble “Hey cocksucker, I wanna beat the shit out of you” to a nonplussed audience in Houston, TX circa 1981 over the cheapest drum machine sound known to man is a moment that is nothing short of magical. My copy came with sick Culturcide/Really Red flyers.

7. Capone-N-NoreagaThe War Report
On their first album, Capone and Noreaga take the Mobb Deep template of thugged-out Queens duo rap into real weird territory. One of the most striking things about this record to me is how CNN metaphorically align Gulf War geography with different areas of Queens, which ties in with their group name and album title as well as the record’s many references to Islam and Arabic culture. Capone is cool and this album has good ‘beats,’ but it’s definitely Noreaga’s mix of funny sex humor, half-baked 5-percent philosophy, and horrible pronunciation and word use that make The War Report a must-hear. “Neva Die Alone” has the sickest intro to any song ever besides “Zone” by United Mutation.

8. Shirley & Dolly Collins with the Young TraditionThe Holly Bears The Crown
Shirley and sister Dolly hitting the studio in 1969 to collab with the Young Tradition, my favorite ever singing harmony group, on an incredible collection of mostly traditional Christmas-themed songs that went unreleased until 1995. The elements that make the participants’ other records great are here in full force, including Dolly’s medieval sounding instrumentation and arrangements, and especially the YT’s real weird, almost harsh harmonies, which they tone down a little since it’s Christmas and also they have to make room for Shirley. They are simply the best. This is what I want every Christmas album to sound like, and it continually, for me, calls to mind images of expansive frozen fields, cold winter sun, and warm British halls. There are a couple of spoken passages dealing with the Yuletide season that further enhance this feeling, one by Shakespeare and one by that chick Virginia Woolf. I want to listen to this album a lot all the time, but I can’t as it’s not the holiday season anymore.

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