Music » In Rotation

In Rotation: Ralph Rivera of Not Normal Tapes on the bulb that never dims at Light in the Attic

Plus: Hip Kid Records' Jim Gies on one of America's best melodic punk bands, the Reader's Kevin Warwick on dream pop for seasonal depressives, and more

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A Sparks T-shirt
  • A Sparks T-shirt

Kevin Warwick, Reader associate editor

The Radio Dept., Passive Aggressive: Singles 2002-2010 Overcast skies and dropping temperatures mean seasonal depression looms—and what better to pair it with than fuzzy, ambient dream pop from Sweden, one of the planet's most seasonally depressed countries. This collection of the Radio Dept.'s deeper cuts shows off the band's knack for tucking a glowing guitar or synth melody deep within a listless haze.

Scott Walker: 30 Century Man This 2006 documentary is an excellent primer on the career of vocalist Scott Walker, who began in the 60s writing pop songs with the Walker Brothers and morphed into an avant-garde composer and producer—the shoot revolved around sessions for his 2006 album The Drift, and in one sequence he explains to a studio percussionist how to punch a slab of pork to get the sound effect he wants. The film also includes rare face time with the reclusive Walker—who just released a collaboration with drone-­metal band Sunn O))) called Soused—plus interviews with Jarvis Cocker and Brian Eno.

My Sparks T-shirt I got it on last year's Two Hands One Mouth Tour, where brothers Ron and Russell Mael performed as a keyboards-and-vocals duo. The T-shirt, which cost a pretty outrageous $30, simply reads Mael & Mael, in the style of those Helvetica "list of names" shirts that Experimental Jetset originated in 2001. Many don't have a clue what that means or how to pronounce it, which gives me the opportunity to gush about the glam-pop auteurs and sing the praises of that show. Then I go home and cue up Propaganda.

Kevin is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

Vexx - COURTESY THE ARTIST
  • Courtesy the artist
  • Vexx

Ralph Rivera, CEO and employee of the month five years running at Not Normal Tapes

Light in the Attic Records Reissue specialists Light in the Attic raise the bar so continually that I can almost hear the exasperated gasps and grumblings of "Why bother?" from labels with similar intentions, but I've spent the past year worshipping at the Altar of the Bulb That Never Dims. Whether it's reissuing skate-rock funk-punkers the Big Boys, psychedelic grandpappy Roky Erickson, or indigenous rock 'n' roll and Thai funk, LITA lavishes palpable love and care on each release, making its output a necessity for anyone born a rocker.

Sputter, the Wrong After spending a few months kicking myself for missing these two Chicago bands, I finally landed one hard enough to propel my posterior to a show they were playing. That night the Wrong and Sputter opened for a big-ticket band with a name of pugilistic origins, and both of them outplayed and upstaged the headliner. While every yahoo with a pedal board has been subjecting us to a "mature" take on punk for some time now, these freaks brandish the rallying cry "I don't wanna!" and distill the genre back down to its most primal manifestation: short, fast, loud, and hilariously smart.

Vexx While it's technically possible to argue that there are better bands than Vexx, these arguments would be based on untruths and bullshit. This group from Olympia, Washington, is one of my favorites currently going, hyperbole notwithstanding; their fuzzed-out, catchy-yet-volatile, west-coast-via-outer-space punk has death-squeezed my brain into unwavering loyalty, and yours is next.

Ralph is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

samhain-initium.jpg

Jim Gies, founder of Hip Kid Records, front man of Boilerman

Bathory, Bathory It's fall, and that means my listening habits lean even more heavily toward the weird, the heavy, and the unsettling. Bathory's genre-defining 1984 debut is the perfect combination of all three. Though it predates the Bathory material that sounds more like what black metal would become, this record is still a vital, intense classic that has aged extremely well. Every track on here is a hit, and I could listen to "Necromansy" on repeat all through the season.

Samhain, Initium Equal parts eerie, catchy, and campy, Samhain's first album (also from 1984) is a perfect companion to the start of cold weather. Danzig's vocals are in top form, and the bizarre production, though oddly appropriate, is something I still can't wrap my head around even after hundreds of listens. At ten songs long, it's over pretty quick, so I'll just have to play Initium over and over until the first day of spring.

Murmurs at Township on Mon 10/6 I enjoyed this Seattle band's debut 12-inch, Fly With the Unkindness, quite a bit, and I was looking forward to seeing how everything translated live. I was not disappointed. These four guys play a grimy, gritty, and unreasonably catchy style of punk that's perfectly complemented by their heavy, fuzzy tone. Just tight enough to be impressive while still maintaining a sense of wild urgency, Murmurs are one of the best melodic punk bands the U.S. has to offer.

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