Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Athens rock band Bird Names and Danish ambient producer Jonas Munk.
Listed: Bird Names + Manual
Bird Names are a quirky psychedelic pop band that started in Chicago in the mid 2000s. Over the course of four self-produced full lengths and a host of EPs and mini-albums , the core duo of David Lineal and Phalen Lavelle were joined by a myriad of other musicians. Now located in Athens, Ga., we caught up with the two before they headed out on a 30-plus date tour that starts Feb. 21, and will take them all over the East, Midwest and South. The band’s new album Metabolism: A Salute to the Energy of the Sun comes out March 8 on Northern Spy Records
David Lineal’s picks
1. Dolly Mixture - Demonstration Tapes
A spearminty pop album to listen to again and again and again. Dolly Mixture was kind of like The Shangri-Las multiplied by the British early-’80s college scene, and Demonstration Tapes was the band’s only album, a double LP. It’s overwhelming at first to listen to 27 great songs, all in a distinct, fully realized tongue (a transitional style from late-’70s punk/no wave to mid-’80s new wave/soft jazz), with dense right-on musicianship (amazing drums, amazing vocals, amazing guitars), smartly written, and filled with attitude and feeling. This is an album you can really snap your fingers to.
2. Ray Price - Columbia Collection
A collection of Ray Price singles from the ‘50s on Columbia Records, and over countless listens it has given me profound empathy in coping with loss, loneliness and despair. Price’s honeycomb voice glides over lush honky-tonk arrangements — the songs are beautiful and true, and the lyrics are completely devastating. As a songwriter, I aspire to the complex honesty and smoothness of these songs.
3. Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys
Of all bands of all-time, this is the band I would most like to see live. These guys had the spark, the ability to make the listener feel the crazy fire of life and explode with dance. They played western swing, a country-jazz-blues fusion, with an 18-piece big band complete with horns and strings — they were playing a kind of jazz rock ‘n’ roll 20 years before the fact. Bob Wills was the hype man — hooting and sassing back to the vocalist through almost all their songs. I’ve listened to them for years and their playful energy gets my knees knobbing every time.
4. The Pixies -- Trompe le Monde
My friend with a cool older brother gave me this album when I was 12 and it was like a lightning bolt. Changed my life, shook me through with a pitch of excitement, inspired me like music can inspire for the first time. For my money it’s the best Pixies album — I think it’s the most original sounding of their albums, too (it still sounds weird to me). This album helped me realize that you can employ pop song structure to make harshness taste like sugar — from Joey Santiago’s one-note guitar solo to Black Francis’ terrible yowl.
5. The Glenn Miller Orchestra
My dorkiest choice. OK, you can dismiss Glenn Miller as clichéd to death, lame-stain icon of white jazz nostalgia. I’ll just keep peacefully listening to him. I have a passion for syrupy old romantic music (and a pretty high tolerance for schmaltz), and this man revolutionized how romantic love is understood and expressed with sound. His harmonies run with extravagant colors, his melodies are intensely catchy, and he arranges a huge palette of instrumental voices in service of the song such that it all seems effortless. You just don’t hear pop music this sophisticated and unabashedly soulful in the clubs today. Listen to his version of "Perfidia." I feel that.
Phealan Lavelle’s picks
1. Cream - Wheels of Fire
So, I like Eric Clapton. This album in particular is dripping with ripping Clapton solos. Also, Ginger Baker (really cool guy) slays on the skins — his infamous live drum solo is on here, too. They have a dynamic selection of time signatures to appreciate. In my formative listening years, my dad really pushed the Clapton, especially when he saw that I might be getting into Neil Young, whom he despised for some foggy controversy that happened in the ‘70s between the two rockers. I guess it stuck with me. (Cream doing White Room on John Peel.)
2. Fela Kuti - Zombie
So, besides inspiring a vibing ball of energy in your lower abdomen, installing some sublime cathartic party jam where it’s to cry while you’re dancing (or is that sweat...), it was also dangerous make. KALAKUTA (their anti-colonial commune and recording studio) got destroyed and Fela’s mother was killed, all by soldiers enraged by the message of independence in this album. Man, what is it to make music when these are the stakes? And it’s so, so good. Everything: the percussion, the bass, the sexy saxo. I had this bitchin’ dream the other night that I was a member of the Kuti ensemble and all of the music was manifested in words floating around us. As we danced, the words were being strung onto a long, golden necklace like charms.
3. The Ronnettes
Love Ronnie’s voice and attitude, and despite the failing morality of Phil Spector, man, I love his sound, his arrangements. That sound is pretty singular, you know? I mean, if someone wanted to make a nostalgia-inducing cry machine, they would just have to isolate that particular frequency or wave in a certain space or whatever. It’s all black magic to me, but aren’t we all going to be robots anyway?
4. Sebadoh - Freed Man
Made in 1988 at Smith College. This album was revolutionary to me for a few reasons. Like using 4-track tape distortion and field recordings as instruments. And then for Lou Barlow’s definition of a song. The album has like more than 30 tracks, most not longer than 80 seconds. But each piece clearly expresses something meaningful. They are mostly sketches of songs, but all the intent and emotion is there. It’s pretty special.
5. Johnny Guitar
Johnny Guitar has been featured in many compilations such as Shadow Music of Thailand and Thai Beat A Go Go. The leader of the band was actually the organist. The guitarist was a kid from Spain. Just those two together are shoe-ins. That’s how I want to play guitar and organ. This is my jam — great for exercising or sharing a joint.
Jonas Munk is a musician and producer from Odense, Denmark, best know for his electronica and ambient releases under the name Manual. Last year he released the album Drowned in Light on Make Mine Music in Europe, and on Darla in the U.S. This spring will see the release of new projects: a collaboration with members of Tortoise and Isotope 217 under the name Chicago Odense Ensemble, which will be out on Adluna Records in March; and a collaborative album with German producer Ulrich Schnauss will be out on Pedigree Cuts in the U.K. soon.
1. Roedelius - Wenn Der Südwind Weht
Most people familiar with Roedelius’ work with Cluster, Harmonia or Eno know that he is an amazing musician. But some of the best testaments to his genius are actually found on his lesser-known solo recordings. Wenn Der Südwind Weht is a prime example of Roedelius’ unique way of putting small, repetitive synthesizer pieces together. Delicately simple, thoughtful and timeless.
2. Grateful Dead - Live/Dead
There’s something truly special about early Grateful Dead. Beautiful breezy improvisations — mostly instrumental, with a stoned, jazzy vibe. Occasionally it feels like mid-1960s Coltrane Quartet translated into a rock environment. You can also hear clear traces of this album in later Krautrock groups, such as Agitation Free and Popol Vuh. I get the feeling there’s a potential in this music that has yet to be fulfilled — something that hasn’t been fully explored yet. This recording of “Dark Star” has to be one of my all time favorite pieces of music.
3. Auburn Lull - Cast from the Platform
For some reason, this album has been heavily overlooked, but in terms of ambient/shoegaze/dream-pop albums, this is as good as it gets. From start to finish, this album is carefully crafted dream-pop perfection. "Jersey Narrows" is the ultimate blend of ambient-electronica and shoegaze, and "Seaforth" and "Shallow in Youth" are prime examples of oceanic rock. Fans of Pygmalion-era Slowdive and Bark Psychosis need to check out this band immediately.
4. Aix Em Klemm - Aix Em Klemm
As this album is a collaboration between Bobby Donne (Labradford) and Adam Wiltzie (Stars of the Lid), it comes as no surprise that this is some ambient music of the highest quality. While most tracks sounds like an obvious synthesis of the two musicians respective projects, there are moments on this album that transcend the combination of their individual strengths. "Prue Lewarne" and "The Luxury of Dirt" are indescribably beautiful pieces — it carries a stunning, minimalist melancholia that still surpasses the work of just about any other ambient artists operating in this field.
5. Tim Buckley - Blue Afternoon
If I could only choose the catalog of one artist to take with me on a desert island, it would probably have to be Tim Buckley’s. There are amazing albums in each of Tim Buckley’s distinct periods, but the music he produced in the late 1960s, which mixed experimental folk with mellow jazz, remains something truly special. Tim’s voice is one of a kind, but the haunting, mysterious melancholia in his simple 12-string guitar compositions are breathtaking - and the arrangements with upright acoustic bass, vibes and Lee Underwood’s magnificent guitar playing makes this album a treasure. When listening to "I’ve Must Have Been Blind" and "Happy Time," one can almost feel the hazy, late 1960s SoCal sun that saturates every second of this album.
6. Pullman - Turnstyles and Junkpiles
Great album of small acoustic instrumentals from this Chicago all-star group consisting of Bundy K. Brown, Curtis Harvey, Doug McCombs and Chris Brokaw. It has a cozy, laid-back feel to it that oozes peace and warmth. There are traces of Nick Drake and John Fahey’s guitar playing here and there, but this album has a mellow quality that I haven’t heard anywhere else. Perfect Sunday morning music.
7. Popol Vuh - Einsjäger & Siebensjäger
After a couple of great albums of cosmic synth or keyboard driven drone-music, Florian Fricke decided put away the synths and put together a ‘band’ in the more traditional sense. The result of this was some highly emotional new age rock that blended eastern influences and Christian mysticism with western rock. Sounds pretty awful, I know — but this is some amazingly unique music that quite simply bursts with inspiration and emotion. The 20-minute title track from 1974’s Einsjäger & Siebensjäger is a clear highlight in Popol Vuh’s catalog, with one glorious peak after another, and Daniel Fichelscher’s stunning guitar gradually spiraling into space. It projects an unashamed sense of joy and unbounded euphoria that would be impossible today. Anyone who’s fed up with the lifeless Brooklyn hipsterism that dominates just about everything these days should dig into this album — it’s the perfect antidote.
8. Rain Tree Crow - S/T
In the late 1980s ex-Japan members Richard Barbieri, David Sylvian, Steve Jansen and Mick Karn (R.I.P.) got together for a new collaboration and it still stands as a highlight in each of these musicians impressive catalogs. There’s a healthy amount of Talk Talk Spirit of Eden influence going on here, as well as some exotic stylings. Barbieri’s synth work is amazing as always, and so is Steve Jansen’s percussion. David Sylvian sounds dark and haunting on this album (as on his mid-1980s solo albums), and songs like "Every Colour You Are" and "Pocket Full of Change" are among the best achievements of his entire career.
9. Steve Reich - Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ
By far my favorite Steve Reich piece, this is a wonderful composition that combines all of his main ideas into one glorious, surreal 16-minute journey. There are so many great details in this piece that you can still discover new things in it, even after many years. It’s also one of the few Reich pieces of the era to be split into individual parts with it’s own key and meter. The best recording of this piece is found on a 1993 recording by the Amdadinda Percussion group on an album entitled Another Look at Counterpoint.
10. Sun Kil Moon - Admiral Fell Promises
Mark Kozelek’s latest album is, in my opinion, also his best. Kozelek is light years ahead of the uninspired, careless guitar strumming that characterizes the usual singer-songwriters. Each song has a unique, thoughtful structure, each chord sounds inspired … this is the work of a musician that never stopped evolving, and hopefully doesn’t stop evolving anytime soon. The only fair comparison I can think of would be Nick Drake’s Pink Moon.
By Dusted Magazine