December 29, 2009

Tess Wiley Interview

My final post of the year is an interview with Tess Wiley. She is the fourth artist I have interviewed in my "best of the decade" series. My Top 50 albums of the decade can be found here, and here is where the artists interviewed rank in that top 50:

Scott Hunter- lead singer of Poor Old Lu (The Waiting Room #9 of the decade)
Chris Simpson- lead singer/songwriter/guitarist of the Gloria Record (Start Here #1 of the decade)
Erick Newbill- guitarist of Fair (The Best Worst-Case Scenario #16 of the decade)
Tess Wiley- Super Fast Rock'n'Roll Played Slow #19 of the decade

Tess was first known as the rhythm guitarist in Sixpence None the Richer. She was in that band only briefly however, and has since come in to her own as a solo artist, releasing three full-length albums: Rainy Day Assembly, 2001; Not Quite Me, 2003 and Super Fast Rock'n'Roll Played Slow, 2007. (Links are to the cheapest way to buy each album.) Tess is originally from Texas, but has lived in Germany for the last decade. Her label home is Tapete Records.











AP:
What are your top 10 albums of the decade?

TW:
10. Imogen Heap - Speak For Yourself (2005)
9. Dear Reader - Replace Why With Funny (2009)
8. Blumfeld - Jenseits von Jedem (2003)
7. Kid Koala - Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (2000)
6. Over the Rhine - Ohio (2003)
5. Emiliana Torrini - Fisherman's Woman (2004)
4. Feist - Let it Die (2004)
3. of Montreal - Icelandic Twins (2004)
2. Björk - Vespertine (2001)
1. Josh Ottum - Like the Season (2007) {to be released in America, Josh's homeland, in 2010}

AP: What are your favorite five albums this decade released by friends and bandmates?

TW:
5. Paul Bryan - Handcuff King (2003)
Paul produced my first record Rainy Day Assembly, having already worked with lots of better-known 90s artists from the Boston area such as Paula Cole. He now plays bass for Aimee Mann, among others, and produces and composes string arrangements with more and more known and respected artists. Check out his website.

4. Jason Harrod - Bright as You (2005)
I didn't exactly work with Jason except for a one-week tour of mid/east America in 2003. But we hit it off and I covered his song, featured on this record, called "Messed up Everywhere Blues" on my last record Super Fast Rock'n'Roll Played Slow. We both apparently have a thing for long song titles.

3. Sixpence None the Richer - Divine Discontent (2002)
I played with this band from 1994-1995. It was great fun but had to end, then they had a huge hit (four years later)! They are still close friends of mine, even if we don't get to talk much. I was fortunate enough to have been able to play four festivals with them here in Europe summer before last. I find so many of the songs so infectiously singable, and I was thrilled to see Leigh stretching out into songwriting territory. Isn't she good? Her record Blue on Blue is also a favorite of mine, but I only have five slots I can fill here.

2. Solomon Burke - Don't Give up on Me (2003)
Jay Bellerose, who played drums on this record, also played on Rainy Day Assembly. He's an unbelievably great and instinctive drummer and percussionist. Back in 2000, when we record Rainy Day Assembly, I was too immature to recognize the genius and wondered why he made such odd choices for each song. Once I heard it back, though, I was spellbound, not to mention humbled.

1. Jolie Holland - Escondida (2004)
Jolie was my first songwriting buddy. I met her in the Arnold Junior High orchestra in Cypress, Texas in 1988. I recall her sitting at the piano during dress rehearsal for the Christmas concert, "composing" pieces on the spot which were not seldomly quite melodic. We didn't work all that much together since we were only "kids", but we did throw a band together for a Houston arts festival, probably in 1992, just for the one show. We were called "Brass Buttons", after the Gram Parsons song. When I'd heard she had a record out I was impressed, and when I actually heard it, I was so incredibly stoked! It's so great.

AP: What are your current musical projects?

TW: Since my last release Super Fast Rock'n'Roll Played Slow, of which I'm still quite proud, I've made a record with a friend of mine here in Germany under the name Land der Lebendigen, which means "Land of the Living" and comes from Psalm 27. It's a bit of a worship record borne out of our playing at our church here in Giessen. We had created quite a fan base during our Sunday morning "performances" and had been encouraged for the past 5 or so years to make a recording. What with all the years of brewing this thought, interrupted with one baby after another, when we finally got around to it, it had become a much bigger monster than originally planned. But I'm very proud of it - it features a variety of instruments such as orgen, clavinet, a small choir, horns and a string arrangement from my Dad (Fletch Wiley) as well one from my friend Paul Bryan (see above). It is in German but nevertheless musically well worth a listen, if not merely to hear me sing in German (tee-hee).

Lately I've been getting asked more and more to contribute vocals to various projects, the first of which was a jazzy electronic duo from Bochum, Germany with a project called Leland P. They're in the process of making a new record which should be released sometime in 2010, when Essen, a nearby city, will be crowned "World Culture City 2010", and we're hoping to get in a bit of the action. I've posted a song at my Myspace site. This record, although also from Germany, is in English!

Another English-language German group with whom I'm working is Gregor McEwan. Oddly, another band with a man's name. The record, Houses and Homes, will be released 2010. And finally, at the myspace site for Steev Richter, I sing on the song "Seakeeper" with him.

The next plans for me are to disappear somewhere into the Black Forest in the new year to write a load of new songs for a new record, with the hope to release in the fall of 2010. Gotta get away from my two li'l boys so I can concentrate!

Erick Newbill (Fair) Interview

My next interview is with Erick Newbill, known best as a guitarist in the band Fair. While working in Aaron Sprinkle's shadow in Fair, he is a frontman in his own right, originally in the band Wes Dando and now with his new project, Subways on the Sun, which he mentions below.

Fair (L to R): Nick Barber (bass), Aaron Sprinkle (vocals, guitar), Erick Newbill (guitar), Joey Sanchez (drums, percussion)

AP:
What are your top 10 favorite albums of the decade?

EN:

1) Mew - And the Glass Handed Kites
2) Blur - Think Tank
3) Muse - Black Holes & Revelations
4) Catherine Wheel - Wishville
5) Oasis - Don't Believe the Truth
6) Keane - Hopes & Fears
7) Kasabian - Empire
8) Rufus Wainwright - Poses
9) Gorillaz - Demon Days
10) Super Furry Animals - Phantom Power

AP: What are your top 5 favorite albums of the decade released by friends or bandmates?

EN:
1) Eisley - Combinations - Fair toured with Eisley back in 2006 and we had a great time. They are one of my favorite bands and I listen to their records all the time. I think they took it to the next level with Combinations.
2) Aaron Sprinkle - Bareface - Aside from playing together in Fair, we've been friends for 10+ years. Some of this album was recorded in the basement of my old house, and I have lots of fun memories of some of these songs being written and recorded, including meeting Joey (Sanchez) for the first time during the sessions. It's great music, and nostalgic - a perfect combo for me.
3) Lars Katz - The Veil - I've known Lars since I was in college. He worked as an assistant to Aaron in the studio for a couple years as well and has his name on a lot of big Tooth and Nail records. I worked with him on some of the production for this album, and love how it turned out. Lars is incredibly talented, having played all of the instruments on this record and writing incredibly interesting and inspiring songs.
4) Monarch - Lowly - We met these local guys a year or two ago because Nick (Barber) met their keyboard player at a local coffee shop where he goes all the time. They are one of the best bands I've heard in a long time and this record is excellent. We're hoping to do some shows with these guys soon.
5) Barcelona - Absolutes - These guys have been friends for a while and this record is so well crafted. We've played lots of shows together, and it's been great to see them become so successful with this album. They deserve it.

AP: What are your current musical projects?

EN: Fair has a new album coming on February 9, 2010. It's been almost 4 years since our last album came out, and over 2 years since we started record this one. I'm really excited about how it turned out. We stretched ourselves, worked hard on it, and learned a lot about ourselves in the process. I know it sounds cheesy, but making this record has been a huge time of growth for all of us personally and musically, and I'm hoping that comes across in the songs.

I'm also working on a new band called Subways on the Sun, doing the writing with my friend Lars Katz. We've been recording new songs since April, and posted a song on our MySpace recently that we are really proud of. We're having fun working together, and are excited to post more songs and see this band take shape. This will be a good outlet for something a little different musically in addition to what I already do in Fair. Nick Barber is going to be playing bass, and we're looking to round it out with a drummer and keyboard player to start playing shows soon.

AP: The 2009 Abrazos Cancer Benefit compilation has been released on iTunes, featuring the first Subways on the Sun song, "Softer Light." 100% of the profits benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation; you can purchase it here. And here is a detailed press release for the new Fair album.

December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

MP3: Eisley- Oh Holy Night

December 22, 2009

Chris Simpson Interview

Chris Simpson has been releasing music now for almost 15 years. He started with the band Mineral (1994-1998, two LPs), then the Gloria Record (1998-2004, two EPs and one LP), and now Zookeeper (2005-present, one EP and one LP). He is the lead singer/songwriter/lyricist/guitarist for all three bands. Recently Chris sent me four mp3s from an upcoming Zookeeper album and we did this interview to go alongside them. You will find these four brand-new Zookeeper songs on his Myspace site, but here for FREE (downloadable) at the bottom of this page.


AP: So these four songs are apparently from a new upcoming Zookeeper album, when can we expect its release? What label are you working with this time, if any?

CS: We aren't currently working with any label. We're trying to finish this record on our own budget/time scale, which is not necessarily the ideal way to work. The record should be expected as soon as it's finished.

AP: These new songs seem much slicker, more produced and with more intentional arrangements than first two Zookeeper releases, the EP and “Becoming All Things.” Was this intentional? Or is this just my perception?

CS: This is just sort of how things have been turning out. Originally, we wanted to record live but were in a small environment and were forced to multi-track. This leaves open the possibility of more focused production of each track.

AP: How has the songwriting process for you changed over the last 15 years, moving from Mineral to the Gloria Record and now to Zookeeper?

CS: It doesn't really feel like much has changed. Just trying to keep yourself interested sometimes necessitates moving through different eras and moments and possible inspirations. Basically, it feels just as difficult as always.

AP: You have always written what seem to be very personal lyrics, from GJS to I Was Born in Omaha to On Madison Way. Are your songs truly autobiographical? Would you mind explaining the lyrics or meaning behind one of the new songs? (My personal favorite of the new tracks is Mama Jean.)

CS: Interestingly, Mama Jean is one of the few non-autobiographical songs I've written, but I don't really know a whole lot about who it is about. I remember writing it and having a realization of the song, seeing it come very quickly, and knowing I'd need to clear my calendar for the night to deal with the documentation of the song. But it seems to be about dreams.
As for writing autobiographically -- in the Mineral and Gloria Record days, to some degree, it seemed to be the only way I could write. It's exciting to be able to experience some kind of freedom from that, although I think it still may be a very valuable way to write. It's hard to fault the honest approach -- writing what you know about -- but there's a point at which that seems uninteresting. And even if a little guesswork is involved, it seems more interesting to write about characters.

AP: Recently on MySpace you announced that a Japanese label is putting out a Mineral 7” compilation. Do you have any more info regarding this? How did this come about more than a decade after the breakup of the band? I have to admit that I think MD and February were two of the best songs Mineral ever released and it will be nice to be able to listen to them on CD for the first time.

CS: To clarify, this is not a collection of 7-inches, but both full-lengths and the 7-inches and a few covers -- a comprehensive release. Which is only supposed to be available for sale in Japan, but I'd think you'd be able to find it online once it's released. It happened because someone expressed interest in it happening. There seems to be an assumption that offers are turned down on a regular basis -- but an offer every 15 years or so is probably more realistic. February/MD is probably my favorite Mineral work -- I love that 7-inch and that period of time.

AP: After being in two rock bands, what is it like to play folk music? Do you see yourself playing in a rock band again?

CS: Yeah, that's funny. To me, Zookeeper is a rock band, but I definitely understand what I think is meant by the idea that it's folk as compared to rock... if, say, Mineral or The Gloria Record were rock. But it all feels the same to me; particularly this newer stuff. Zookeeper has rock songs and then sort of more atmospheric songs. It doesn't seem like Zookeeper is folk, per se -- but maybe it is and I just can't see that. I saw a DJ Shadow in-store where he said that someone asked him how he referred to his music, and he said something about how he grew up listening to hip-hop and loving hip-hop, so it would always be hip-hop to him, the same way whatever Eric Clapton did would probably always feel like blues to him. So maybe whatever I make will always be rock to me.

AP: Turn Off the Radio just named The Gloria Record’s Start Here the album of the decade for 2000-2009. What are your thoughts on this and the perception of the Gloria Record’s legacy?

CS: I think that's great. I don't know that I have a perception of people's perception of the legacy of The Gloria Record. I'd bet Start Here sold fewer copies than any other potential album of the decade. Ever. But it is awesome to make your list.

AP: What are your favorite albums of the decade?

CS: Favorite albums of the decade -- Well, I really like the Broadcast records, particularly HaHa Sound. I continue to enjoy the records that The Innocence Mission puts out. I really loved the first Beirut record and the EP that followed. DJ Shadow's Private Press. Wilco -- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The Radiohead records this decade have all been very good. I feel like I'm missing things that would be obvious if it was five years ago.

AP: What are your top 5 albums this decade released by friends or former band-mates?

CS: I would have to say (in no particular order):
Zykos - Keep It Light EP (Good friends with all of them from way back. Various members have played Zookeeper shows and played on recordings.)
Brazos - Phosphorescent Blues (Friends -- Martin is a great songwriter.)
Alex Dupree and the Trapdoor Band - Los Meridanzas (Alex Dupree -- Zookeeper clan. Alex regularly plays and records with Zookeeper and is a very gifted songwriter. Some of his bandmates play on Zookeeper stuff as well.)
Sad Accordions - Bad Year for the Sharons (Zookeeper clan. Seth Woods and Ben Lance regularly play and record with Zookeeper, and their other musical projects [including SA, Whiskey Priest, and Booher & the Turkeyz] are all fantastic. )
The Frames - For the Birds (Odd connection there. Was always a fan of their music. My then-girlfriend/now wife used to edit a music magazine and befriended their then-manager. Put us all in touch and found out Glen was a fan of Mineral. The Gloria Record played shows with Glen and one with The Frames on a midwest tour back in the day. Glen is still one of my favorite performers.)


New Zookeeper songs:
MP3: Mama Jean

Top 50 Albums of the Decade


I have been hinting at this post for awhile now, and originally thought I might wait awhile longer before posting it, but here you go, my favorite 50 albums of the decade. Lots of other blogs and magazines have been doing the same thing, and I had intended to make this post a little more fancy, but in the interest of time, I am just going to put it up. I am also working on my best of 2009 list, and a variety of interviews, and they are more important.

When I decided to make a list of my 50 favorite albums of this decade, I needed some way to narrow the field. So I made a rule than an artist can only have one album in the top 50. This way more great albums are mentioned, and my favorite artists don’t dominate the list. This is also why I decided to create my favorite 20 artists of the decade list, to mention all those other great albums. That said, here we go:

(**own on vinyl; *vinyl exists but I don't have it yet)


50. Cat Power- You are Free (2003)**
49. This Beautiful Mess- Temper The Wind to the Shorn Lamb (2003)*
48. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova- Once Original Soundtrack (2007)**
47. Radiohead- Hail to the Thief (2003)*
46. The Flaming Lips- Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)*
45. Patty Griffin- 1000 Kisses (2002)
44. Wilco- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)*
43. Rosie Thomas- These Friends of Mine (2007)
42. Cursive- The Ugly Organ (2003)**
41. Starflyer 59- Leave Here a Stranger (2001)*
40. Mogwai- Mr. Beast (2006)*
39. Explosions in the Sky- The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place (2003)**
38. Sleeping at Last- Keep No Score (2006)**
37. Coldplay- Viva La Vida (2008)**
36. Neko Case- Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006)**
35. Pinback- Summer in Abaddon (2004)**
34. Mindy Smith- One Moment More (2004)
33. Brown Feather Sparrow- Wide Awakens Everything (2003)
32. Manchester Orchestra- I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child (2006)*
31. Blindside- A Thought Crushed My Mind (2000)
30. Zwan- Mary Star of the Sea (2003)**
29. The New Pornographers- Twin Cinema (2005)**
28. Tegan and Sara- So Jealous (2004)*
27. Eisley- Combinations (2007)
26. mewithoutYou- Brother, Sister (2006)**
25. Sixpence None the Richer- Divine Discontent (2002)
24. Lovedrug- Pretend You’re Alive (2004)*
23. Brandtson- Send Us a Signal (2004)**
22. Pedro the Lion- Control (2002)**
21. Jimmy Eat World- Bleed American (2001)**
20. Luxury- Health and Sport (2005)
19. Tess Wiley- Super Fast Rock’n’Roll Played Slow (2007)
18. Jeremy Enigk- World Waits (2006)
17. Fiona Apple- Extraordinary Machine (2005)**
16. Fair- The Best Worst-Case Scenario (2006)
15. Arcade Fire- Funeral (2004)**
14. The Anniversary- Designing a Nervous Breakdown (2000)**
13. Mates of State- Re-Arrange Us (2008)**
12. Sufjan Stevens- Illinoise (2005)**
11. Cush- Cush (also referred to as "New Sound") (2000)
10. Over the Rhine- Ohio (2003)* (this is #1 on my vinyl want-list and would pay a lot for it)
9. Poor Old Lu- The Waiting Room (2002)
8. Elliott- False Cathedrals (2000)**
7. Foutains of Wayne- Welcome Interstate Managers (2003)
6. Death Cab for Cutie- Transatlanticism (2003)**
5. Nada Surf- Let Go (2003)**
4. The Appleseed Cast- Low Level Owl, Vols. 1 and 2 (2001)**
3. Sunny Day Real Estate- The Rising Tide (2000)**
2. Thrice- The Alchemy Index, Vols. 1-4, (2007)**
1. The Gloria Record- Start Here (2002)**

Making the decision for number one was far easier than I expected. It was my #1 album of 2002, and has stuck with me, musically and lyrically. The Gloria Record's Start Here is a flawless album, and was the pinnacle, and unfortunately final, release from the Gloria Record discography. My next post will be an in-depth interview with the lead singer/songwriter of the Gloria Record, Chris Simpson. Stay tuned...

December 16, 2009

Dustin Kensrue - This Is War

This is the video for Dustin Kensrue's This is War, an original song of his off his Christmas album, This Good Night is Still Everywhere (on eMusic).

There is a great, brief interview with Dustin about the song's meaning on AntiMusic; and here are the lyrics:

This is war like you ain't seen.
This winter's long, it's cold and mean.
With hangdog hearts we stood condemned,
But the tide turns now at Bethlehem.

This is war and born tonight,
The Word as flesh, the Lord of Light,
The Son of God, the low-born king;
Who demons fear, of whom angels sing.

This is war on sin and death;
The dark will take it's final breath.
It shakes the earth, confounds all plans;
The mystery of God as man.

December 11, 2009

Best of the Decade: An Interview with Scott Hunter

As I have mentioned previously, I am working on a variety of posts to wrap up this decade in music. That started earlier this week with my top 20 artists of the decade. Today we have a short interview with Scott Hunter, lead singer of Poor Old Lu, Turn Off the Radio's #1 artist of the 1990s. Poor Old Lu did released one album this decade, The Waiting Room, in 2002, and you will find it high on my list of albums of the decade (which will be the final "decade" post, the last week of the year.) I also hope to interview a few more artists this month about their favorites from this past decade.

AP:
What are your favorite albums of the decade?


SH:
Here are my top 15:

15. Muse, Absolution
14. 16 Horsepower, Secret South
13. Editors, An End Has A Start
12. Switchfoot, The Beautiful Letdown
11. The Fire Theft, The Fire Theft
10. Jimmy Eat World, Bleed American
9. Radiohead, In Rainbows
8. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
7. Sunny Day Real Estate, The Rising Tide
6. Neko Case, Middle Cyclone
5. Silversun Pickups, Swoon
4. Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
3. Coldplay, X&Y
2. meWithoutYou, Brother, Sister (tie with Catch For Us The Foxes)
1. Over The Rhine, Ohio


AP:
What are your favorite five albums from this decade released by friends or former bandmates?

SH:

Starflyer 59
, My Island Having not been much of a Starflyer fan over the years, I was pleasantly surprised to hear My Island. The recording is great, the songs are well-written, and some of those melodies are almost obnoxiously catchy! Best of all, this album has helped me to track back and enjoy many of their previous releases.

Fair, Best Worst-Case Scenario What can I say here? To say that I "know these guys" would be a bit of an understatement. That said, this is a wonderful album -- from the album artwork down to the near perfect production.

Telecast, The Beauty Of Simplicity Josh White was our worship leader for a couple of years, so a few of these songs were very familiar to me before this album was released. It's not only an extremely great "worship album", it also happens to be a tremendous album all-around.


Sunny Day Real Estate
, The Rising Tide
Truth be told, though, I was never really a fan of Sunny Day. In fact, it wasn't until getting a copy of The Fire Theft (which is great) that I worked back to the later Sunny Day catalog. Sadly, this album tends to be dismissed by longtime Sunny Day fans (and the band, perhaps), but I think it's the best work they've ever done. Perhaps the best Jeremy Enigk project ever.

For those "not in the know", Jeremy and I met back in junior high -- before Sunny Day, Poor Old Lu, or any projects of that sort. Our early incarnation was called "Tears Of A King" with Jeremy and I sharing vocals, Nick (Barber) on bass, and Aaron (Sprinkle) handling the rest. Fun times!

Acceptance, Black Lines To Battlefields (tie with Phantoms)

A strange addition to this list, since I'm really not much of an "emo" fan, but Acceptance had a unique sound. Definitely very "of the day", yet different... energetic, talented, and well written. My early release, unmastered copy of Black Lines to Battlefields was thoroughly played through.

AP: Could not agree more that that My Island is great Starflyer album, despite many fans disliking it.
If you don't know, Aaron Sprinkle, lead singer/songwriter/guitarist for Fair was the guitar player for Poor Old Lu, and Nick Barber, Fair's bass player had the same role in Poor Old Lu. Another note, the artwork for the Best Worst-Case Scenario, designed by Invisible Creature, won a Grammy.)

If you would like to check out Scott's best of 2009 list, go to his blog.

December 9, 2009

Artists of the Decade

I am in the process of creating a variety of lists to sum up the 2000-2009 decade in music, and the first of these is my top 20 favorite artists of the decade. In order to make this list, the artist needed to be active for most of the decade, with frequent album releases and touring. For each artist I am listing all of the studio albums they released this decade. (I am not listing live albums, b-sides, EPs, etc.) I am also including my rankings for each LP the year it was released. One of the reasons I created this list is because on my upcoming top 50 albums of the decade I limited each artist to only one inclusion.



  • Thrice
    2001- Identity Crisis
    Top 10 of 2002- The Illusion of Safety**
    #2 of 2003- The Artist in the Ambulance**
    #2 of 2005- Vheissu**
    #1 of 2007- The Alchemy Index Vols. 1 & 2**
    #3 of 2008- The Alchemy Index Vols. 3 & 4**
    Top 10 of 2009- Beggars**
  • The Appleseed Cast
    Top 10 of 2000- Mare Vitalis**
    #1 of 2001- Low Level Owl Vols. 1 & 2**
    Top 10 of 2003- Two Conversations**
    Top 10 of 2006- Peregrine**
    Top 10 of 2009- Sagarmatha**
  • Jeremy Enigk
    #1 of 2000- Sunny Day Real Estate- The Rising Tide*
    2003- The Fire Theft- The Fire Theft
    2003- United States of Leland movie score
    #3 of 2006- World Waits
    Top 10 of 2009- OK Bear*
    2009- Sunny Day Real Estate Diary** and LP2** reiusses & tour
  • Aaron Sprinkle
    Top 10 of 2000- The Kindest Days
    Top 10 of 2001- Bareface
    #2 of 2002- Poor Old Lu- The Waiting Room
    #1 of 2006- Fair- The Best Worst-Case Scenario
    2010- Fair- Disappearing World to be released on February 9
  • Mates of State
    2000- My Solo Project**
    Top 10 of 2002- Our Constant Concern**
    2003- Team Boo**
    #2 of 2006- Bring it Back**
    #1 of 2008- Re-Arrange Us**
  • Death Cab for Cutie
    2000- We Have the Facts and We are Voting Yes*
    #3 of 2001- The Photo Album*
    #3 of 2003- Transatlanticism**
    Top 10 of 2005- Plans**
    2008- Narrow Stairs*
  • Nada Surf
    Top 10 of 2003- Let Go** (released in 2002 in Europe)
    Top 10 of 2005- The Weight is a Gift**
    #2 of 2008- Lucky**
    2009- Vinyl Box set containing all 5 LPs
  • The New Pornographers and Neko Case
    (I am cheating by combining them, but oh well)
    2000- NC- Furnace Room Lullaby
    2000- TNP- Mass Romantic*
    2002- NC- Blacklisted
    Top 10 of 2003- TNP- Electric Version**
    Top 10 of 2005- TNP- Twin Cinema*
    Top 10 of 2006- NC- Fox Confessor Brings the Flood*
    Top 10 of 2007- TNP- Challengers**
    Top 10 of 2009- NC- Middle Cyclone *
  • Jimmy Eat World
    Top 10 of 2001- Bleed American**
    Top 10 of 2004- Futures**
    Top 10 of 2007- Chase This Light**
    2009- Clarity** vinyl reissue (#1 of 1999)
  • Over the Rhine
    Top 10 of 2001- Films for Radio
    Top 10 of 2003- Ohio*
    Top 10 of 2005- Drunkard's Prayer
    2006- Snow Angels*
    2007- The Trumpet Child**
  • Sufjan Stevens
    2003- Michigan**
    Top 10 of 2004- Seven Swans**
    #1 of 2005- Illinoise**
    2006- Songs for Christmas 5CD box set
  • Eisley
    #2 of 2005- Room Noises**
    #2 of 2007- Combinations
  • Tegan & Sara
    2000- This Business of Art (don't own, never heard)
    2002- If It Was You*
    Top 10 of 2004- So Jealous*
    2007- The Con**
    2009- Sainthood* (yet to purchase, soon!)
  • Tess Wiley
    #2 of 2001- Rainy Day Assembly
    Top 10 of 2004- Not Quite Me
    #3 of 2007- Super Fast Rock'n'Roll Played Slow
  • Starflyer 59
    Top 10 of 2001- Leave Here A Stranger*
    2003- Old
    2004- I am the Portuguese Blues
    2005- Talking Voice vs. Singing Voice**
    Top 10 of 2006- My Island
    2007- Ghosts of the Future** 10 x 7" vinyl box set
    Top 10 of 2008- Dial M**
  • Arcade Fire
    #2 of 2004- Funeral
    Top 10 of 2007- Neon Bible
  • Brandtson
    Top 10 of 2002- Dial In Sounds**
    #1 of 2004- Send Us a Signal
    Top 10 of 2006- Hello, Control
  • Fountains of Wayne
    #1 of 2003- Welcome Interstate Manager
    2007- Traffic and Weather
  • Mindy Smith
    Top 10 of 2004- One Moment More
    2006- Long Island Shores
    2007- My Holiday
    Top 10 of 2009- Stupid Love
  • Coldplay
    2000- Parachutes*
    2002- A Rush of Blood to the Head*
    2005- X & Y*
    Top 10 of 2008- Viva la Vida **
  • COMING SOON

    This page is coming soon. Working on it!

    November 28, 2009

    Birthday music

    Music I got for my birthday:
    The Crucified- The Complete Collection (2 CD/ 1 DVD)
    The Beatles- The White Album (2 CD)
    Brown Feather Sparrow- Brave (iTunes gift card)
    Sojourn- Advent Songs (Free on NoiseTrade)
    Andy Zipf- The Cowards Choir EP (Free on NoiseTrade)
    Katie Herzig- Weightless (Free on NoiseTrade)

    I was led to Andy Zipf because he is in a new band called the Lost Chorus. I became aware of the Lost Chorus because the band was started by Dirk Lemmenes (Stavesacre & Focused), Ryan Dennee (Stavesacre) and Alex Albert (Project 86). They have one song on Myspace, it is pretty good. Apparently those three guys had been jamming for together for awhile now, writing instrumental songs. They added Andy, who I was previoulsly unaware of, to be their lead vocalist. You can learn more about him here.

    I had been wanting that Brown Feather Sparrow album for awhile now. I have their first two LPs, and they are excellent. I discovered them in 2003 when I saw them perform at Flevo Festival in the Netherlands. They are Dutch, and I would compare them to Over the Rhine or Rosie Thomas. Brown Feather Sparrow has better lyrics than both of those artist though; in fact they have better lyrics than most artists, period. Brave was released in 2008, but I never bought it because it has no US distribution and would have cost me about $30 US for the CD and shipping. It eventually appeared on iTunes, and today I finally took the plunge since I got an iTunes gift card for my birthday. If you like female-fronted, mellow indie rock, no one does it better than Brown Feather Sparrow.

    November 25, 2009

    Misc. music news

    1. Sixpence None the Richer is set to record their next album in January 2010 with producer Jim Scott. For info on Jim Scott, check this out. His list of credits is at the bottom of that page, and it includes Johnny Cash, Wilco, Counting Crows and Red Hot Chili Peppers. In other Sixpence news, their best album, "This Beautiful Mess," just became available on emusic.

    2. Fair finally has a release date for their second LP: February 9, 2010. It has taken them over two years to record, mainly due to the other things their band members are involved in. Fair is of course Aaron Sprinkle, Erick Newbill, Joey Sanchez and Nick Barber. Their debut album was my #1 of 2006.

    3. Just found an informative interview with Myk Porter, of Brandtson and now Swarm of Bats. If you don't want to read it, the summary is that Brandtson is dead and Swarm of Bats is the remaining members full-time project. They have samples on Myspace which honestly sound terrible. They have recorded an 8-song EP to be released soon-ish, and I'll probably buy it out of loyalty.

    4. Tess Wiley has been recording with the band Leeland P. I have never heard of them until now, but Tess posted two songs on her Myspace page, and they are terrific. The band has apparently been around for awhile, and this new album with Tess will be released next year.

    5. My most recent purchases:
    Built to Spill- There is No Enemy ($2 on Amazon MP3 with coupon through Friday)
    Thao- Know Better Learn Faster (emusic)
    Mates of State- Re-Arranged Remixes vol. 1 (emusic)
    Led Zeppelin- Mothership (used 2CD set)
    Mae- (M)orning EP- (Amazon MP3)
    Flaming Lips- Embryonic (CD)
    Avett Brothers- I and Love and You (CD)

    November 4, 2009

    Album of the Decade?

    I am working on three lists to publish before the end of this year- best of 1996, best of 2009, and the top 50 albums of the decade. Would love some feedback on that last one- what is your favorite album of the decade (2000-2009)? Please leave a comment!

    October 19, 2009

    Zookeeper (Chris Simpson)

    Zookeeper posted four new tracks on Myspace today from an upcoming record (which I knew nothing about until today). The songs are outstanding. From a production sense, they are light years ahead of the the first Zookeeper LP and EP.

    If you don't already know, Zookeeper is a folk/country project from former Mineral and Gloria Record frontman Chris Simpson. He has always been one of my favorite lyricists. I have mixed feelings about his solo work though, it has always sounded unfinished in a way. Good songs, but I don't really enjoy the way most of them are recorded.

    However, these tracks are more refined, especially the first, "Mama Jean", which musically is the best Simpson song I have heard since the Gloria Record days. (Although it and the other songs sound NOTHING like the Gloria Record.) Anyway, check the songs out here.

    September 25, 2009

    Sunny Day Real Estate NEW SONG

    Unless you are hiding under a rock, you are well aware that Sunny Day Real Estate is on tour. Here is a great review of one of their shows from the Onion AV Club.

    One of the most interesting things I learned from that article is that they did not play any songs from their most recent album, "The Rising Tide". Kind of shocking, honestly. I realize one of the purposes of this tour is to promote the reissues of their first two albums, but still, they haven't played a concert in 8 years, and they haven't played a show with the original lineup in 15 years. "The Rising Tide" is probably the least favorite of the four SDRE LPs for most fans, but even still, the album is terrific. It has it's flaws, but I would rank it as my #1 album of 2000, and probably in my top 10 albums of this decade.

    Well, bigger news than no "Rising Tide" songs is that they have A NEW SONG!:

    September 18, 2009

    Sunny Day Real Estate ON TOUR

    Videos are starting to surface from SDRE's first complete line-up show in over 15 years. Here is a good one from Sept. 16: YouTube

    I am seeing them in Atlanta on October 3 and could not be more excited.

    On Tuesday the 'Diary' and 'LP2' reissues were released. I got the vinyl versions, and they are gorgeous. Both have extensive, new liner notes which are interviews with the band members along with other musicians. Both are double LPs, 'Diary' is clear red vinyl and 'LP2' is pink vinyl, of course. For Diary they made a large version of the CD booklet, so you get to have the beautiful artwork even larger to hold in your hand. For $40 including shipping from the Sub-Pop website, you can own both of these.

    September 17, 2009

    Opus: Why to buy physical music

    Great post on the Opus blog about why he still buys CDs. I agree with the post completely, except that I prefer to vinyl. Anyway, check out the post, and check out his website, it is outstanding.

    September 16, 2009

    emusic Download recommendations

    I just had someone post a comment asking for recent emusic recommendations- great idea! As usual, I have been neglecting this blog, so this should be an easy enough way for me to get a good post in.

    1. Thrice. Unfortunately their new album, 'Beggars', has not hit emusic yet, but it will. The CD and iTunes versions are available. I have been meaning to write a detailed review about it, but keep putting it off. In short, 'Beggars' is the most cohesive album they have done since 2003's 'Artist in the Ambulance.' It sounds nothing like that album though, and really sounds nothing like anything they have ever done. It is very raw and lyrically powerful. Back to emusic, download 'The Alchemy Index' if you have not already, all four volumes are there.

    2. David Bazan- Curse Your Branches. I'll avoid any comments on the spiritual implications of this release, but I will say musically it is the best thing he has done since Pedro the Lion's 'Control.' (Speaking of 'Control', it is also on emusic.) I actually haven't heard the whole album yet, because I am waiting on the vinyl to arrive. I have resisted the urge to go ahead and get the mp3s from emusic.

    3. The Appleseed Cast- Sagarmatha. If you haven't downloaded the album of the year yet, now is the time. Epic, original post-rock. This post is about emusic, but I will say if you are going to only buy one vinyl album this year, get this one. In addition to a bonus track, the artwork is spectacular, from the cover to the vinyl itself. I think the CD and emusic cover for this album is horrible, but the vinyl cover is gorgeous.













    4. Metric- Fantasies
    . Band has been around for awhile, but I did not discover them until this 2009 release. Great indie dance-rock with female vocals. High energy, I would love to see this band live.

    5. The Lassie Foundation- Through and Through. Northern Records recently added most of their catalog to the emusic database, including this Lassie Foundation two-disc set. In addition to this, all the Cush albums are highly recommended, although they are all at least 5 years old (ignore the incorrect 2007 labels). Search "Northern Records" under the record label option on emusic.

    August 11, 2009

    Thrice- Beggars

    It's out today. I'll give comments and thoughts tomorrow.

    July 20, 2009

    Brandtson = Swarm of Bats

    As far as I know, Brandtson is dead. Everyone who has ever been in Brandtson, minus Jared, is now Swarm of Bats. Yesterday the first Swarm of Bats show was announced, on their Myspace site. You can see them in Cleveland, of course, on August 14.

    This is from April 11:

    heya- sorry for the silence on this… we haven’t made anything official because we just don’t really know. at this point all i know is that jared really isn’t interested in doing anything musically in the way that we always have- which is a bit of a bummer for sure. we’re all still good friends, and it’s not a matter of us not getting along… just life and that sort of thing. I’d love to do another record or at least a few goodbye shows, but it’s all up in the air for now…

    myk, john, adam and myself are all making music together as a new band and are hoping to play a few shows this summer around home (cleveland) and possibly do some recording. it feels good to play with those dudes again- it’s been way too long.

    sorry i don’t have anything solid to give you at this time… i just don’t know whats going to happen really.

    July 10, 2009

    Best of 1995

    December 31, 2015 edit: I spent much of this year writing about albums celebrating their 20th Anniversaries. Turns out my affinity for music from 1995 is shared with many people, and led to the Chrindie '95 project on Medium. While I still find the name "Chrindie" to be a little dumb, it is shorter than "Christian indie and underground music". Most everything written in this blog post was back in 2009, but today I have added the links to the Chrindie '95 Medium essays for each album that has one. Many were written by me, but I also included ones from other writers.

    Also, for awhile I think I was ashamed that most of the music I listened to in the 90's was from the Christian scene. But not any longer. These albums are legitimately terrific, and I have had countless individuals both in and outside of the scene confirm my feelings. A great example is J. Edward Keyes An Atheist's Guide to Christian Rock.

    1995 is my favorite year in the history of music, period. Pretty strange statement, but as I go back and evaluate my life and how music relates to it, this is the pinnacle. People 10 years younger or 10 years older than me would probably find this to be ridiculous, but I think people around my same age might at least see where I am coming from. (One could argue that anyone into underground/indie music would always find their year of high school graduation to be their favorite year in music.)

    What you’ll find in this post:
    Top 20 albums of 1995
    Top 5 EPs
    of 1995
    Notable compilation albums

    Other notable LPs

    Top 5 concerts of 1995

    Top 20 albums of 1995:

    1. Sixpence None the Richer- This Beautiful Mess
    Without question, is my favorite album of all time. No music has ever impacted me the way this album has. When it was released in April of 1995 I listened to nothing else but it for weeks. I can still remember walking around with my CD Walkman listening to it wherever I went. This was in the middle of my only high school track season, and I can remember listening to it on the bus traveling to meets, at the meets, etc. I have no real way of describing my taste in music to anyone (in 2009, I most often say “indie rock”). But as far as my favorite style, it would be female-fronted rock (5 of the top 10 albums on this 1995 list fall in this category). That is what this album is, and I think the best example of female-fronted rock that has ever been recorded. As much as I like the rest of Sixpence’s catalog, none of it touches This Beautiful Mess. Sixpence’s line-up was ridiculous for this album also, the best line-up of the dozens they have had in their 15 year existence: Matt Slocum & Leigh Bingham Nash of course, plus Tess Wiley on rhythm guitar and bgv’s, J.J. Plasencio on bass, and Dale Baker on drums. You know a band is good when the three members no longer in the band have their own websites. Best Song: “Love, Salvation, the Fear of Death”

    Sixpence None the Richer’s “This Beautiful Mess” turns 20
    Sixpence None the Richer’s This Beautiful Mess

    2. The Prayer Chain- Mercury
    Revolutionary. I have never heard anything remotely like it and probably never will. The first time I listened to it I borrowed the cassette from my friend Jay on some FBC trip, I think choir tour. My first impression was, “I think I like it, but is it just one long, song?” Most of the songs do blend into one another, and the song structures are very different than what the band (or anyone) had been doing previously. My favorite song on the album, “Sky High” is 9 minutes long. Guitar work is incredible, tons of different tones, effects and recording methods.

    The Prayer Chain’s Mercury

    3. Luxury- Amazing and Thank You
    I dreamed for years of having Luxury perform at my wedding. I guess I could have made it happen, but it was kind of silly. I settled for having their song “Solid Gold” played at my wedding reception. This is the first and best of the four Luxury albums. Luxury is meant to be experienced live, and I am thankful I got to see them at least 5 times. They are easily the best band I have ever seen in concert, and I have seen hundreds. They have great stage presence and are high energy. This album is a balance of short, fast songs like “Pink Revenge” and “Flaming Youth” and long, dramatic songs like “Kill the Famous” and the aforementioned “Solid Gold.” One last memory of Luxury and my favorite song of theirs: one time when “Solid Gold” was played on the A-Zone radio show, the deejays, apparently impatient for it to end, cut it off. They stopped playing it before the climax and I will never forgive them! :) The song is long, but every second is important.

    Luxury’s Amazing and Thank You

    4. The Innocence Mission- Glow
    Unlike most of the bands on this list, I cannot remember when I first heard them or where or when I got this album. The best quiet “rock” band ever. Well, at least they were rock, after this album, they lost their drummer and settled into a minimalistic folk band. Another one of the many husband/wife bands, Kerin and Don Peris make beautiful, peaceful music. One of the very few of my favorite bands I have never seen in concert. They are still active, and I almost saw them in Philadelphia two summers ago. Best Song: “That Was Another Country”

    The Innocence Mission’s Glow


    5. Argyle Park- Misguided
    If you have never heard this album, it is terrifying. If I ever need to torture a country or pop music fan, I will put them in my car, turn this album all the way up, and play it in its entirety. It is my favorite industrial album ever and in most years would have ended up much higher than #5 on a list. Extremely diverse for an industrial album, because of wild instrumentation beyond electronics, and because of a rotating cast of lead vocalists including Klay Scott (Scott Albert/Celldweller/Circle of Dust), Jyro (Mortal, Fold Zandura, LCNA) and Mark Salomon (The Crucified, Stavesacre). Best song: “Doomsayer”

    Chrindie ’95: The Rest
    6. Sunny Day Real Estate- LP2** (The Pink Album)
    Probably my least favorite of the four SDRE albums, not because it isn’t good, it is great. It just seems thrown together, which it was. The band broke up during the recording of it, and it wasn’t really ever finished. Some of the songs are outtakes from ‘Diary’. If you are unfamiliar with the rest of the band’s work, you wouldn’t think anything of it, but their other three albums are perfectly cohesive. Guitar and bass riffs are outstanding, especially on my two favorite tracks, “8” and “J’nuh”. I’ve been writing lots about SDRE recently because of their 2009 reunion tour. LP2 and ‘Diary’ will both be re-released in Sept. 2009 on Sub-Pop records with new, extensive liner notes and bonus tracks.

    7. Morella's Forest- SuperDeluxe
    I don’t listen to this album anywhere near enough. Released during the hay-day of Tooth & Nail, I think I originally bought it because of the cool packaging (Also I am sure I heard it on the A-Zone.) Produced by Chris Colbert, I think this is his masterpiece. He has worked on tons of great albums, including #2 on this list, but most of the time he was working with much more talented musicians. Not to take anything away from the members of MoFo (yes, the band did really have a shirt that said “MoFo” on the back), but it is clear the sound of this album was directed heavily by Colbert. He has been referred to as “The King of Noise”, and that is what you get here with a heavy My Bloody Valentine shoegaze sound. Sydney’s vocals are great, but the wall of guitars and feedback is the focus. The first of four Morella’s Forest LPs, this is the only one that ever really grabbed me. The others are good, but are more in the pop-rock style and not at all shoegaze. Best song: “Fizzlekiss

    Morella’s Forest’s Super Deluxe

    8. Fleming and John- Delusions of Grandeur
    This is the first of many albums that I refer to as “highly anticipated.” In present day, I am always counting down to the release of the next album being put out by one of my favorite artists (my current highly anticipated are the next Fair and Thrice albums). I know actual release dates, and I can generally tell you what the status is of ever artist I follow closely (on tour, in the studio, on hiatus, etc.). In 1995 and before, that was not the case. All of this music was so new to me, when I discovered an artist, chances are they had already released 2 or 3 albums for me to buy and check out.

    Well, in 1995, Fleming & John was the exception. Due to their contribution to 1994’s Steve Taylor Tribute ("Harder to Believe than Not to") and their song, “I’m Not Afraid”, I was dying to hear an album by them. However, in 1994, they didn’t have an album. But “I’m Not Afraid” was being played on the radio often, both by the A-Zone and Thunder 94.

    In January 1994 my brother and I saw Fleming & John play in the basement of an old fraternity house at Vanderbilt. We spent the night with a college student who volunteered at FBC, I cannot remember his name. Anyway, it was a great show, and my first “real” concert. They said their album was “coming soon”. And then a few weeks later, we got postcards in the mail announcing “Delusions of Grandeur” would be released in March on REX records. For those of who are young; tours, concerts, etc. were all announced via mail, usually a postcard from a band or record label. (Yep, I did keep all those postcards.)

    The album is/was great, and “I’m Not Afraid” was my song of the year in 1995. For those of you who know this band and this song, there are actually three versions of it. The radio single that was played prior to March 1995 was a different recording than ended up on the album. The original version had a guitar intro that sounded a little too much like Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit”, even though “I’m Not Afraid” was recorded before it, as far as I know. Then in 1996 Universal Records re-released “Delusions of Grandeur” with new artwork. Most assume the two versions are identical musically, but a few songs were re-recorded with minor adjustments, including “I’m Not Afraid.”

    Fleming & John’s ‘Delusions of Grandeur’ and Hoi Polloi’s ‘Happy Ever After’

    9. Hoi Polloi- Happy Ever After
    Hoi Polloi is actually from New Zealand, but all three of their albums were recorded in Nashville where the band lived for at least five years. This is their third and final album, but as far as I know, the only one they were actually proud of. The first two are over-produced, and sound a little too generic and poppy. This one is extremely raw with awesome, powerful guitars. The band was fronted by Jenny Gullen, who had a unique voice and great persona. She actually played a solo show at FBC once, but unfortunately I missed it. I was fortunate enough to see them play live though at least three times. The best song is “Tiptoe”, which actually received some mainstream radio play in Nashville on Thunder 94. You keep hearing me refer to Thunder 94, which as far as I know, was the best mainstream radio station ever. Similar to 99X in Atlanta, but without all the talk and a little more underground. Thunder 94 was the sister station to Lightning 100, which still exists to this day.

    This was Hoi Polloi’s final album, but they did release a last demo cassette in 1996, “Only Flying,” which contained possibly their best songs ever. It is too bad the band broke up and move backed to New Zealand before completing another LP.




    10. Smashing Pumpkins- Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness*
    My introduction to this album was the “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” music video, which was my introduction to MTV (didn't have cable until college). Best song: "Galapogos". Don’t think I need to say much more about this one.

    11. Starflyer 59- Gold Starflyer is probably the most prolific band I am a fan of. They have 11 LPs, not to mention tons of EPs, live albums, compilations, etc. This is their second album, and my favorite. Once again a display of how deep the year of 1995 is in music; there are many years that have Starflyer albums in the top 10 that are not as good as this one. ‘Gold’ is probably the hardest album Starflyer ever released, with the most guitar feedback. Has some of my favorite CD packaging ever, which was recently recycled for last year’s ‘Ghosts of the Future’ 10 x 7” vinyl set (as seen in this photo). Also worth mentioning, Starflyer 59 is not really a band, it is Jason Martin, songwriter/guitarist/vocalist plus whatever friends happen to be nearby. For this album, that happened to be some great musicians, such as Wayne Everett and Gene Eugene. Best song: “When You Feel the Mess”

    Starflyer 59's Gold

    12. Blenderhead- Muchacho Vivo
    I was a big fan of the first Blenderhead album, but nothing could have prepared me for this. The band matured drastically, musically and lyrically, for this, their second LP. Many of these songs I heard for the first time at Blenderhead concert in June of 1995 (see more below in the concerts section). The first Blenderhead album was angry (and the third one also sort of is, for that matter), but this one is more melodic and refined. One interesting thing about this CD, three of the songs are combined into a single track. This was a nightmare as a deejay, which resulted in us playing the wrong song on occasion. Through a quick internet search, I discovered lead singer/songwriter Bill Power has a new band, called the Ted Kennedys. Best song: “Breaking Skin”

    Blenderhead’s Muchacho Vivo

    13. Raspberry Jam- Oceanic
    For a long time I referred to this album as “water-mercury”. Pretty dumb, I know, but it shares some similarities to the Prayer Chain’s ‘Mercury’ released also this year: long songs that blend together with fantastic, interesting guitar tones. Distinctly different that ‘Mercury’ though, most notably with female lead vocals. And the song-writing is much more straight-forward. I am not a fan of the band’s first album ‘Chi-Rho’, but it is worth mentioning that the album sounds like it is from a completely different band. I never got to see them live, and I wonder how they blended songs from both releases. Herb Grimaud was an important part of this band from a song-writing perspective, and Herb later played bass in for the Violet Burning in the best shows I ever saw them do. The Violets have had lots of line-ups, but the best had to be Michael Pritzl with Andy Prickett on lead guitar, Herb on bass, and Chuck Cummings on drums. Back to ‘Oceanic’, best song is “Easter”.


    14. The Blamed- Frail
    The Blamed released lots of albums, and they all featured different line-ups, the only member that appears on all of them is guitarist Brian Gray. This is their best work, a phenomenal hardcore punk album. When I got it, it was by far the heaviest thing I had ever heard. I found the screaming to be fascinating, especially that they were screaming theologically interesting lyrics. “Breeze” is the best and mellowest song on the album, which I played on my radio show often. Interesting fact: the Blamed’s lead “singer” on this album was Jeremy Moffett, who was Stavesacre’s original drummer. Just did a quick online search and discovered Brian Gray has a new band called The Satire, which originally went by the name “The Blamed is Dead.” The Satire just performed last week at the Cornerstone Festival.


    The Blamed’s ‘Frail’


    15. Vigilantes of Love- Blister Soul
    The first time I ever saw Vigilantes of Love in concert was on the ‘Blister Soul’ tour at Zydeco in Birmingham in 1996. Up until that point I had been curious about VOL, but didn’t care for Bill Mallonee’s voice. The show blew me away though, and I became a big fan; it would become the first of at least 15 times I have seen VOL or Bill live. This is one of the best albums Bill & VOL ever released. He has released around 20 full-length albums, and I would put ‘Audible Sigh’ #1 and ‘Blister Soul’ #2. This album is the closest Bill ever flirted with fame, as “Real Down Town” received some mainstream airplay in Atlanta and Nashville. Best song: “Skin”

    Blister Soul


    16. Adam Again- Perfecta
    This was the unfortunately the final Adam Again album, due the premature death of band leader Gene Eugene. Eugene left his stamp all over the Christian underground music scene, as a songwriter, singer, producer, etc. “Stone”, the first song on the album, is one of my favorite songs of all time. Adam Again was always kind of a funky rock band, but they were at their best with slow, mellow songs, like this album’s “Every Mother’s Way.” Heard for the first time on the A-Zone, of course.

    Adam Again’s Perfecta
    17. and 18. Michael Knott- Strip Cycle and Fluid
    1995 was near the end of the prolific, outstanding Knott era. ‘Strip Cycle’ contains my favorite Knott song ever, “Tattoo.” The album has a logical name, as it is very stripped down, mostly just an out-of-tune guitar. ‘Fluid’ is the polar opposite, a full-out rock album with Andrew Carter on lead guitar. ‘Fluid’ was the precursor for Knott’s band, the Aunt Bettys, releasing their debut in 1996. Some seem to think ‘Fluid ‘ released in 1996, but the date on the back of my copy says 1995 and I am almost positive I bought it that year. Knott also released the Lifesavers album “Huntington Beach” in 1995. For an extensive, complete Knott discography, click here.


    19. Radiohead- The Bends*
    I hated Radiohead in 1995. Pretty funny to say that now, but I saw them open for REM in the fall of that year, and I despised every minute of their show. The only memory I have of it is the insane number of f-words Thom Yorke said during their short set. The only Radiohead song I knew at the time was “Creep”, which I still think is terrible. It wasn’t until ‘OK Computer’ came out until I ever went back to check out this album, which is now my 2nd favorite Radiohead release.



    20. MxPx- Teenage Politics**- My favorite MxPx album, the only one I still listen to with any regularity. At the time, it was probably in my top 5 albums of this year. Vinyl is clear-blue.

    MxPx’s ‘Teenage Politics’ (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Question Authority)

    Top 5 EPs:

    1. Poor Old Lu- Straight Six
    If not for being an EP, this would challenge to be Lu’s best album. A dramatic shift from ‘Sin’, this EP is much mellower and diverse. Instrumentation broadened significantly, but also includes some of the band’s best songs. If Lu had ever had a radio single, “For the Love of My Country” would have been it. Also features Jeremy Enigk singing a duet with Scott on the song “Digging Deep” and the EP concludes with a cover of the Swoon’s “Speak Soft.”

    Poor Old Lu’s Straight Six EP

    2. Splendora (Tess Wiley)- Bootleg Pre-release version
    Tess Wiley’s first release, released soon after she left Sixpence. Contains the original version of my favorite Tess song, “Rainy Day Assembly”, recorded during Sixpence’s ‘This Beautiful Mess’ sessions. It is acoustic, but the rest of the EP is full of distorted guitars with lots of feedback. This EP also concludes with a great cover, Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face.” Tess dropped Splendora for the moniker Phantasmic, and these songs were re-released the following year on the Fluffy vs. Phantasmic CD. And with the exception of the Billy Idol cover, all of the other songs on this EP have since been re-recorded (with drastic changes) and placed onto Tess’ solo albums.


    3. Starflyer 59- Le Vainqueur
    Contains my favorite Starflyer song, the title track. Radio edit version of song is worthless, make sure you listen to the full version.

    Le Vainqueur
    4. Morella’s Forest- Hang-Out
    Companion disc for ‘Super-Deluxe’, including a cover of Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry.”


    5. Joy Electric- Five Stars for Failure
    The only Joy Electric release I have ever listened to with any consistency. My favorite Joy Electric song can be found here, the original version of “The Girl From Rosewood Lane.” Overall has a much darker feel than most of Joy Electric’s “happy” music.

    Compilations:
    Artcore Volume 1- An unbelievable sampler from Tooth & Nail, unique because it is all exclusive tracks: debut song from Rose Blossom Punch, also Joy Electric, Havalina, MxPx, Starflyer 2000 (Jason Martin with Leigh Nash on vocals).

    Tooth & Nail Records’ @rt©ore Volume I

    Noel- My favorite Christmas album ever released, collaborators include Steve Hindalong, Derri Daugherty, Michael Pritzl, Jenny Gullen, and Buddy and Julie Miller.

    Noel

    Other notable albums from 1995 in random order:
    Circle of Dust- s/t- This Klay Scott masterpiece was released at least twice, so it is confusing what year it was actually released. 2015 brings news of new Circle of Dust.
    Circle of Dust’s Circle of Dust

    Joe Christmas- Upstairs, Overlooking- Best radio single never played on the radio: “Coupleskate”

    Dime Store Prophets- Love is Against the Grain- Perry of The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers called this his favorite album of all time that year
    Dime Store Prophets’ Love is Against the Grain

    No Doubt- Tragic Kingdom

    Black Eyed Sceva- Way Before the Flood- please record more music, Jeremy Post, you must be out there somewhere!
    Black Eyed Sceva’s Way Before the Flood

    Fold Zandura- s/t- also known as 'Dark Divine', new band from Jyro and Jerome of Mortal
    Fold Zandura’s Fold Zandura

    Mortal- Pura- strangest of all the Mortal releases, as it is almost entirely instrumental with a completely different sound. Two songs are “old” Mortal and one song has female vocals

    Sometime Sunday- Drain- Can still remember my brother talking about how he loved it when Mikee’s voice cracked

    Sometime Sunday’s Drain
    77s- Tom Tom Blues- Best song: “Don’t Leave Me Long”

    Michael Roe- Safe as Milk- make sure you get the full, 12-song version

    Johnny Q. Public- Extra-Ordinary- Best song: “Big Top”

    Focused- The Hope That Lies Within

    Plankeye- The Spark -was top-5 at the time, didn't age well

    Plankeye’s The Spark
    Jars of Clay- s/t- I think the band improved dramatically over the years, but this was probably their peak in popularity due to “Flood.” Best song is “World’s Apart”
    Jars of Clay’s Jars of Clay

    Collective Soul- s/t- you must watch the video for “The World I Know”

    311- s/t- “Don’t Stay Home”!

    Top 5 concerts attended in 1995 (this was the year I began attending shows):

    1. Dakoda Motor Co., Hoi Polloi & Johnny Q. Public at Rocketown in Franklin, TN. In March, went with Jay (& Bethany?), Larissa and Keith. Must have been one other person, because we had three people squeezed into the front seat of the Bonneville. Davia had already left Dakoda Motor Co. at the time, but the show was still great with Melissa. DMC is still in the process of recording a new album, although it is taking them years. They did play a show as recent as Memorial Day 2009. Track their progress on Twitter.

    2. The Prayer Chain & The Throes at the Crush Warehouse in Birmingham, AL. In September, went with Phil and we got there early to work the merch tables. I did the Prayer Chain’s, Phil did the Throes. Got some free merch along with meeting the Prayer Chain guys. Phil and I promoted this along with all the Crush shows on our radio show, the B.A.Zone. The following photo I took at that show:









    3. Luxury, Starflyer 59, Morella’s Forest and Joe Christmas at the Pteradactyl in Marietta, GA. In October, went with David, Mark and Phil I think. We had seen the Birmingham show the night before that was just SF59 and MoFo. Luxury made a surprise appearance and played ‘Solid Gold’, their first performance after the horrific van wreck. The following photo I took at the Birmingham show:
















    4. MxPx and Blenderhead at some hole in the wall called the Metro in Chattanooga, TN. In June, this was the first road trip my brother Keith and I took by ourselves, the summer after I graduated. We were pumped to say the least. We got there really early and ended up helping the bands unload their gear through the front door (only door in the club). At one point I can remember sitting in the van with MxPx guys and showing them where Chattanooga was on a map. They had just graduated from high school (like me) and had never been out of the Northwest. We put an "MxPx & Blenderhead" or bust sign in our car, sounds like something two teenagers would do. On the way back Keith got pulled over for speeding, but he wasn't really going that fast, and he did not get a ticket. I had been pulled over less than a month before, also going less than 10 over, and also did not get a ticket.

    5. Sixpence None the Richer at Park South Hall in Birmingham, AL. In November, I had to borrow a car to get to the show. My friends went early, but I was unwilling to go because I was watching the second half of the Iron Bowl (War Eagle!) in my dorm room. After the game ended I scrambled to find a car and got some guy I barely knew to drive me over to Park South Hall. Afterwards there was a signing with the band at LifeWay, so I got to meet all the members of my favorite band.

    I made a cassette mix in 1995, which lists my top 11 favorite bands at the time:
    1. Dakoda Motor Co., 2. Sixpence None the Richer, 3. Poor Old Lu, 4. The Prayer Chain, 5. Mortal, 6. MxPx, 7. Fleming & John, 8. Hoi Polloi, 9. Morella's Forest, 10. Plankeye, 11. Starflyer 59. Four of those bands are still in my top 10 today.