Monthly Archives: January 2016


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“I enjoy the craft part. I just try to get better at it”: the Canadian singer-songwriter’s 9th album should be the one to put him on the international radar.


With nine albums already under his belt, Winnipeg, Manitoba, songwriter Scott Nolan has long been simmering just below the surface of popular consciousness. However, one does not reach veteran status without making some friends along the way, and his associations with the likes of Canadian Louisiana-born powerhouse Mary Gauthier, the bottle rocket Wonder of Woodlands Hayes Carll, or the rising husband and wife duo Willie Sugarcapps, means that Scott Nolan might be at the very crest of the rising wave that is Americana.

And although Nolan has flown largely under the radar, his act favored more by genre aficionados than the weekend dancehall crowd, his steady rate of composition and ever increasing execution of craft means the time is right for his most recent work, Silverhill, to find a larger audience. Released January 29 on Transistor 66, it was recorded in a brief three days at the Admiral Bean Studio a few miles from the album’s namesake in Loxley, Alabama, and incorporating a revolving door of musicians, Silverhill displays all the hallmarks that have kept young Nolan on the road despite a career choice that for even top tier acts seems to be showing diminishing returns.

Silverhill’s tracks alternate between joy and pathos. The songs are immediately intimate, somewhat sad, but hopeful. Like a poor man’s family reunion, the characters that populate the album struggle in the face of overwhelming odds, finding salvation finally in each other. There is a great amount of love on Silverhill, both for people and the small passions that decorate our lives. Opening track, “When You Leave this World” is one of the best examples. A forlorn cadence recounts the exploits of a character whom let one look and a single conversation determine the course of his life. Outwardly the material seems dismal, but a closer inspection reveals an abundant stir of pride.

Not to be outdone, “Forever is a Long Time” echoes such sentiments but through a more worldly experience. If Silverhill as a whole is a love song to a small town, then this second track recounts the highway lines stretching beneath humming tires in the search to find it. It is a collage of interstate day-dreaming on past loves, a dog’s eye view of the American interior from Texas to Tennessee, the pattern of stars in foreign latitudes, and that old equation of distance times time.

Scott Nolan has always been a songwriter’s songwriter. His voice seems almost frail for the scope contained within his lyrics. It was never meant to take lead vocal duties, but its thinness, the hollow eyed delivery it contains, meets his subject matter perfectly on tracks like “Easter Down at the Waffle House,” or the song Mary Gauthier chose as her last album’s titular track, “Trouble in Love.”


In speaking with Nolan over the phone, that same voice contains a wealth of humor that stands in almost glaring contrast to his lyrical output. “I’ve been afforded a lot of time to think,” says Nolan. “I don’t know. I wouldn’t say [I’m] sad, but nostalgia is a powerful emotion. I feel a connection a lot of fifties music. There wasn’t a lot of music in my house growing up, but there was a lot of drinking. And the only time the music would come out was when there was drinking. Not so much Elvis, which is fairly obvious, but more like Franky Valli, all this really sentimental stuff.”

His childhood plays a small part on an album that he admits contains a lot of autobiographical influence. Third track, “Fire Up,” tells the story of how Nolan came into music. Explains the songwriter, “I grew up playing heavy metal in a fairly heavy drinking environment. I listened to heavy metal and rebelled. The aspect of that song goes back to my childhood where I was raised by my grandparents. An aunty left a guitar behind in this space at my grandparent’s house that nobody really used. It was an idyllic atmosphere. The feeling of the song is the feeling of my grandparent’s house as a kid. Very free. Very comfortable.”

Nolan can’t really be blamed for his emphasis on personal relationships, both on his records and in his life. Much of his career has been made in the same way relationships were formed before social media influence, and he notes that his best known work, “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart,” came to fruition from face to face interactions.

“Early on in my career I was playing Fort Smith at the Black Widow, an old Viet vet motorcycle bar, a new chapter in my life in terms of travelling, and I always write a lot when I travel. [“Bad Liver”] came together in real time around a lot of people. I wrote a verse of that song at an after-party in Oklahoma, but it ultimately came together in several places, particularly Arkansas. I was really trying to write firsthand from my experiences, and it was an example of where I focused on a feeling specifically.”

Nolan continues, saying, “‘Arkansas My Head Hurts,’ was just a late night poker playing lyric. One of the guys I was playing with over did it the night before and muttered it and the song went from there. Hayes Carll really made it known. He heard it from a guy in Beaumont named, Donny Corville, who played it at an open mic night and Hayes asked about it. We didn’t become friends until after the recording and it led to us traveling together through Canada and the states.”

Previous success aside, Nolan has a lot to proud of with Silverhill. The record is both accessible and enjoyable. Part entertainment but part life story, it’s as honest an album that can be hoped for in an increasingly opaque market. It’s doubtful whether Nolan will ever sell as many records as his peers Gauthier or Carll, but it isn’t entirely lost to the musician: “I enjoy the craft part. I just try to get better at it. I enjoy the travel; the strategizing and all that stuff is really not my favorite. Speaking of Hayes, that’s a really good example of generosity, not just that he cut the song, but that he shone a little light my way. And I gotta be honest with you. If it was like the old days and I had the option to be a more anonymous song writer, I’d be into that.”

Scott Nolan will be touring steadily behind the new album:

YES, AND… Savages

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On their second full-length, he hipster-approved musicians settle the question of whether or not they are merely a simulacra of good things – or the real fuckin’ deal. Hint: it’s the latter.


Around about 2013, the buzz on Silence Yourself, the Savages’ first incendiary album, centered around whether it was original enough or whether it mined a set of early 1980s influences — Siouxie, Dead Kennedys, Joy Division — without adding anything fresh. The band was allowed, in a lot of quarters, to get by on sheer force and presence, the invisible “it factor” that makes an ensemble good in whatever format is chooses to play in. Encouraging reports from the UK group’s South By Southwest performances helped to reinforce that notion, as did a subsequently released 12″ EP and a monumental video for the track “Fuckers.”

But the question remained, was Savages really as good, as important, as exciting, as it sounded? Or was it a simulacra of good things, only compelling to those too young to be familiar with the real item?

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For me, the new Adore Life, just released by Matador, settles the question. Recorded at RAK Studios in London last April with producer Johnny Hostile and engineer Richard Woodcraft, the raw intensity, channeled through rigor and discipline, is still there, but the songwriting is far more varied and interesting. The subject matter, which before was a kind of politics wholly abstracted from personal experience, has become more idiosyncratic. There’s a sense of easy, swaggering ownership of their sound, from the sawtoothed guitar riffs to the pounding rhythms to the yelped and tremulous, vibrato-altered descants. Savages have settled into a demanding aesthetic, found its boundaries and started to push at them. The difference is additive, rather than a change in direction. This is a “yes, and…” kind of record.

“The Answer” opens with a blistering onslaught of guitars, a rackety clamor of drums, but a surprisingly catchy vocal hook, a surprisingly affirmative assertion that “love is the answer.”  The song gives up not one bit of Savages austere, propulsive power, but it slips in a will o’ the wisp flash of vulnerability and connection. Similarly “Evil” rides a sway-backed no-wave riff over urgent, unsentimental ground, yet its plea “Don’t try to change, don’t try to change” seems more tethered to real-world need and co-existence than anything on Silence Yourself.

In retrospect, the debut feels like a manifesto of self-determination thrust out onto the world; Adore Life opens inward, susceptible, woundable, but ready to engage.

Savages vinyl

Silence Yourself had its “Marshal Dear,” a slow-paced torch-sung anomaly tucked in at the end, but Adore Life brings these softer, slower impulses to the fore. The title track is one of them, its full-throated, nearly jazzy vocals hedged in by blistering feedback and creeping bass. “Slowing Down the World” is another, the rock mayhem kept to a simmer against slouching balladry.

In fact, there’s a whole lyrical mid-section to this album from the title track (recently performed live, above, on Jimmy Kimmel) to “When in Love,” that feels more ruminative, less confrontational than the previous album. And the kick is that these songs aren’t a letdown or even a respite, but another form of intensity.

With Adore Life, Savages have built on the visceral, gut-shock impact of their first album with stronger songs and more varied writing. It’s an impressive step up for an already promising band — one that makes you even more eager to see what they’ll do next.

The band: Ayşe Hassan (bass), Fay Milton (drums), Gemma Thompson (guitar), Jehnny Beth (vocals, lyrics). Below, watch the “Shut Up” short film from 2013 by Giorgio Testi (who also directed the “Fuckers” clip.)

PHOTOS & REVIEW: Madonna 1/18/16, Nashville

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January 18 on a cold winter night at Bridgestone Arena, the pop icon brought her “Rebel Heart” tour to Music City USA, and for one evening you could rightly say it was Madge City USA.


The Queen of Pop’s first ever concert appearance in Nashville was highly anticipated despite online reports of her “drunken” behavior, crowd bashing and fake hillbilly accent just the night before in Louisville, Kentucky.  As the sold out crowd patiently (some not so) awaited her arrival onstage we were musically doused by a tiresome, talkative and an overly “look at me” DJ Mary Mac, who failed at getting the crowd to take a walk “down (her) memory lane”.

So, the stage was set. The restless, yet highly vibrant crowd was beyond ready to “get this show on the road”. Even the Queen of Country Music herself, Reba McEntire, from her box seats, sent out a few Instagram posts expressing her disbelief that Miss Ciccone had eluded us for such a long amount time. “At the Madonna concert. She’s not on yet…really???”. “We’re here!! Where is she???” and “She came on at 10:31” commented Mrs. McEntire on 3 of her Instagram photos.

Not knowing whether to get up and walk around or just stay seated, I was immediately convinced by the blasting sounds of “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” that the ignited fans knew this was about to go down. Finally after a 2½ hour delay, Madonna’s highly energetic entrance to “Iconic” took this crowd to a place they had only anticipated being during the long, antsy wait. The stage placement with adjoining crucifix/cross-shaped catwalk literally made the cliché “not a bad seat in the house” operative. The Rebel Heart Tour 2016 was finally here.

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This was a 13-album journey through the entire Madonna spectrum. From an elaborate stage scene featuring the video likes of Mike Tyson and Madonna herself, to her well-trimmed dancers with their highly aerobatic sway pole interlude, everyone in the packed arena was mesmerized. Naturally, it was not possible to avoid cutting some songs down to less than 1+ minute in order to encompass the Madonna discography, but she did, and, managed to complete a 30+ brigade of hot hits on this cold Nashville night.

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We were taken on a 22-year musical voyage covering a time frame between 1983-2016, where such hits as “Lucky Star”, “Into The Groove” and “Dress You Up In My Love” were given a sexy Spanish twist. The elaborate costumes worn in the segment added to the positives vibes and energy the artist brought to the stage. Undoubtedly, Madonna is still a master of musical performance, showing us that still has it: tight dancing skills, a sexy body, spot-on vocals. Okay, not all of her notes were hit perfectly, but then again, who’s counting?  At times, she did seem a bit tired but understandably so. At 57-years YOUNG, she was raw, real, open and honest, and as expected, it wasn’t an all-music affair, as the iconic artist had much to tell and share with her adoring audience.

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Madonna Jan 18 (63 of 83)

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During a break in “Music”, and according to Madonna herself, she shared with the crowd her idea of “playing her pu**y” to Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire”, inviting everyone to sing along to… twice! Jack White was among the crowd and got singled out by Madonna herself. He acknowledged her status and blew her a kiss. A fan from Amsterdam even presented her with a diamond ring, to which Madonna said she would “give to her daughter”. She also took the time to express a warm tribute to Martin Luther King for his unequivocal devotion to civil/equal rights. So it was only fitting, that on this date – Martin Luther King Day, Monday January 18th – she close tonight’s set with the 1983 dance hit “Holiday”.

A magical night it was. Madonna’s Rebel Heart tour took these fans by storm and suddenly the 2½ hour wait was just a distant memory…

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Madonna Jan 18 (32 of 83)




Bitch I’m Madonna

Burning Up

Holy Water


Holy Water (reprise)

Devil Pray

Body Shop

True Love

Deeper and Deeper

Heartbreak city

Love Don’t Live Here anymore

Nobody F**ks With The Queen / Like A Virgin


Living For Love

La Isla Bonita

Dress You Up In My Love

Into The Groove

Lucky Star

Dress You Up In MY Love (reprise)

Who’s That Girl

Don’t Tell Me

Rebel Heart



Ring of Fire (plays her “pu**y”)

Music (reprise)

Candy Shop

Material Girl

La Vie En Rose

Beautiful Stranger

Unapologetic Bitch

Holiday (encore)


Contact: Trae Hancock (

Mark Jackson ( /


THE STORY BEHIND THE ALBUM: Illuminated by The 360’s

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The 1991 release from the beloved Boston band has indeed stood the test of time. “Joyous rock ‘n’ roll and a great band,” as producer Sean Slade puts it.


Ed. Note: The concept behind our series “The Story Behind the Album” is pretty straightforward: what went into the making of a particularly noteworthy recording, as seen through the eyes of its creator(s). It can be an acknowledged classic or an under-the-radar gem, but the basic parameters are the same: a title that stands out in an artist’s catalog, one which has stood the test of time and still commands the respect of fans. It could even have been a critical flop or a commercially under-performing record upon its initial release, but the years have steadily unveiled its extant genius. Our first investigation was into Thee Hypnotics’ 1991 classic Soul Glitter & Sin. Then we took a look at New River Head by The Bevis Frond, followed by Rock ‘N’ Roll by The Cynics, From the Heart of Town by Gallon Drunk, Couture, Couture, Couture by Frausdots and Blue Sky Mining by Midnight Oil. Here’s our latest, and for anyone who was around during the alt-rock explosion in America during the ‘90s, we’re betting you heard — and dug — it. Enjoy.—FM


In 1991 Boston indie rockers The 360’s, consisting of Audrey Clark, Eric Russell, Brian Evans and John Grady, walked into Fort Apache recording studio and proceeded to create a psychedelic tinged, blistering rock record that hit two sweet spots for me. The first was the guitar playing which was in your face, melodic and with a hint of grunge. Next were the vocals that recalled a Chrissie Hynde assuredness and swagger.

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Boston was strip mined for its alternative music. Bands such as Morphine, The Lemonheads, Bullet Lavolta, and the Pixies were offered record deals. Signing frenzies reached their peak and labels were trying very hard to find the next Jane’s Addiction or Ivo Watts Russell-4AD darling. “We were ahead of the curve musically in Boston [and] it always seemed like the right people got it or dug it,” guitarist Eric Russell notes.

Unfortunately, this didn’t add up to stellar album sales for the band. What it did, though, was put them on the radar in Europe and the UK, giving them the opportunity to bring their formidable sound to a new audience. Says Russell, “I remember one gig in New York, we met a promoter who was there to check us out for the Metropolis festival, which is the tour of Holland featured in the movie, The Year That Punk Broke. The cash from that one gig paid for our airfare and allowed us a two-week tour of Holland.” Illuminated also helped propel the band to win, as Audrey Clark mentions, “best new band at the Boston Music Awards.”

Much of the band’s sound can be attributed to their “Fifth Beatle,” Sean Slade, who produced and mixed records such as Radiohead’s Pablo Honey, as well as a slew of Boston’s greatest alternative acts (The Pixies, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Lemonheads, Buffalo Tom, Morphine etc.) and eventually Hole’s Live Through This. Clark recalls, “Slade was absolutely the 5th member of the band. His input was essential, including arrangements, and Eric/Slade had a true vision for the album. Slade is a master of vocal recording. He’s a great vocal arranger especially with female singers. He also had a great collection of vintage amps and guitars. Slade understood us as a band!”

Tracks like “Texas,” with its grizzled ferocity, and pitched on the edge of sanity double tracked vocals, stands out, with its layers of aggressive guitar that swirl and detonate repeatedly throughout the song. It’s as if we’ve happened upon a ghoulish scene in the film Near Dark. Meanwhile, “Illuminated” is the perfect balance of angelic vocals and gritty rumbling guitar. “Put That Behind Me” recalls The Pretenders’ “Middle of the Road”. Here Audrey’s vocals evoke a cynical weariness. The propulsive nature of the guitars makes this all too brief song seethe, and glow. Why this wasn’t a single is beyond comprehension and begs the question of whether the label really had a clear idea of how to promote the band.

Eric aptly describes the sound they were going for with this recordsaying,  “We were talking a lot about heavy guitars, using words like heavy, grunge. Heavy guitars with soft beautiful vocals over the top of a psychedelic wave of noise.” This is in many ways why this album is so interesting, with its psychedelic layers seasoned throughout its ten tracks.

Unfortunately, as is the case for so many bands that are signed to major labels or “indies” with major label ties, unless you have someone at the label to champion your record inside you may inevitably get lost in the shuffle and simply become another notch on an A&R man’s belt. Eric Russell says, “The first recording was paid for by A&M’s Aaron Jacoves, the man who signed Soundgarden.” Later on, though, the label lost interest. This is when NYC’s Link Records stepped up to the plate to sign the band.

Luck also has a fair amount to do with it for bands to get signed. The 360’s seemed to be lucky on many fronts back then. Russell recalls, “I remember coming home from Europe and playing a big gig at Axis. It was for WFNX packed [with] 5 or 600 and the main P.A. kept going in and out, people were horrified they couldn’t believe [that] we didn’t stop. We played through it, weird gig, but it was that night that we were approached with a record deal.”

You’d be forgiven if you thought the band had disappeared into the ether. I certainly thought they had hung up their spurs long ago but as Audrey Clarke says, “We never really stopped being 360’s.” In fact, the band has now welcomed Malcolm Travis (of Sugar fame) into the band as well as Audrey and Eric’s son Ian who does duty behind the kit.

In my musical musings I often mention that back in 1991 I was in China as a foreign exchange student. Illuminated was dubbed on a tape by my friend Juan Lozano who would send me care packages of music to feed me musically when the bleakness of China would start to close in. That is where the music took root in a drab dorm room, on a crappy boom box sitting atop a regulation wooden desk with red painted serial numbers. It’s been almost 25 years and I’ve never tired of listening to Illuminated’s stellar slice of rock and roll.

So with an army of questions in mind, I contacted Clark and her partner Russell to give me the lowdown on how this Illuminated came into existence. In the interim I spent several occasions chatting over Facebook with Audrey about music and my time in China and some common elements in our background. What was great about those moments for me was being able to get to know someone that I had only known through her music. So some three months after I initially emailed her the questions I get a message, “The questions have been answered please send me your address”. I send her my email address and to my surprise and shock she asks for my mailing address. She went on to explain that she’s “old school” about such things and that she included some photos for me and a signed copy of the CD.


When the package finally arrived after 2 nail biting weeks, I opened it to find 13 pages of handwritten responses from both her and Eric as well as nine original photos of her and the band. It was a lovingly, ramshackle assembled montage of a band that continues to inspire. The paper that the questions were answered on smelled of cigarettes and conjure up a wooden kitchen table, linoleum flooring, and those few precious moments of calm in the morning before one heads off to work. Yes, Audrey like many other musicians in this world have to hold down day jobs in order to fund their artistic endeavors.

Of course this article wouldn’t have been complete without talking to Berklee School of Music Professor/Music Producer extraordinaire, Sean Slade. As noted above, he produced the album, and he also manned the boards for its followup, 1992’s Supernatural. (Asked about the possibility of Illuminated one day being available again, he commented, “I have no idea about any re-issue plans. And to be honest, I love the album, but I prefer Supernatural.”) He offered up a wonderfully detailed summary of the recording sessions for Blurt readers which you can read below.

First though, it’s time, in the band’s own transcribed words, to shine a light on Illuminated. (Below: sundry memorabilia plus the band’s handwritten interview responses.)



BLURT: How long had the 360’s been together when Illuminated started to coalesce?

ERIC RUSSELL (ER): I met Audrey in late ’87 we started to discuss forming a band called The Bardot’s and making music and how the music should sound. It was at this point we decided Audrey would play guitar although she had never played before. This started the songwriting [process]. My teaching Audrey to play sparked some sort of energy; it was simple but it felt right. We wrote 2 songs first: “H.M.S.” later on 45 as a B side, and “Trashed” never made it past demo. The 2 songs were done on 4-track, very low fi, no bass or drummer. We used a drum machine and an old friend played bass but this is really where the band and record started. I say this is where the record started because this is when we started to develop our sound – we listened to Syd Barrett bootlegs over and over, post Pink Floyd, [and] also listened heavily to a demo by The Titanics produced by Sean Slade. We wanted heavy guitars with soft female vocals over the top, not knowing yet [that] Slade would be the perfect producer to achieve the sound we wanted, open minded musically yet a great vocal producer.

I think of the record beginning when I met Audrey and we started to talk a lot about the sound we wanted the band to have. We were talking about heavy guitars;we were using words like heavy, grunge. Heavy guitars with soft beautiful vocals over the top of a psychedelic wave of noise. When I met Audrey her band had just broken up; they were beginning to get interest from A&M Records’ A&R man Aaron Jucovics, the Soundgarden A&R man. The band was called Drama Club. I tried out for the band but was kicked out by the band leader who [felt] threatened by me. He could sense that we had a chemistry musically. Audrey was asked to form a new band and started with me. I had Audrey fooling around with one of my guitars and said, “I did not know you could play.” She said, “I can’t,” and I said, “Yes you can,” so I began to teach Audrey guitar. This brought me back to my roots, which was Boston hardcore. It freed me, made me less freaked out by the interest from A&M records.

We wrote our first songs “H.M.S (Horror Movie Soundtrack)” and [“Trashed”]. We recorded them right away on a 4 track home studio owned by her old band mate Kenny. We really dug the lo-fi sound – it had the wave of noise with beautiful vocals. This whole thing took about six months. We played the 2 song demo for Max [Tolkoff], the program director of WFNX who liked the demo, so we started more writing. The whole thing felt new, it felt right, so every time we played we were writing. By the time we got drummer John Grady and [our] first bass player, we had the two songs from the demo and I started writing “Deadpan Superstar”. Audrey started “Tripping With the Angels”, so we had the four songs – not all the way finished, but those 4 ideas before any proper band rehearsals started.

 Were all of these songs tunes you had played and then perfected in the studio, or were some of these songs written in the studio?

ER: No, that would come later as we grew as a band. We were such a young band in the amount of time we were together, and the fact that Audrey had only played guitar for six months when we recorded. We had some great gigs and some real room clearings. We were ahead of the curve musically in Boston but it always seemed like the right people got it or dug it. We grew by playing gigs. All the songs for Illuminated were played out live — we were so loose as a band. It really helped to hone the songs by playing them live. I don’t think we could have made that record without playing them live. Some early gigs were huge breaks, [like the] WFNX birthday that had O-Positive in the audience and they asked us to play their record release party, which led to us [to] opening for Mark Sandman’s band, Treat Her Right. They had a huge local hit with “I Think She Likes Me”. Our music was on heavy rotation on WBCN and WFNX; he described the band as sexy garage rock. He was a fan of the band and a good friend [to] the band.

Back when you all decided to lay these tracks down, what was the Boston music scene like?

ER: The Boston scene had a kind of turmoil – you could feel that a change was happening; the super Berklee chops type of band were out of style. Metal was still their bands, like Trash Broadway, but like out of nowhere we got hold of a rough mix demo by a band called the Titanics – it blew our minds, Audrey and myself. It was recorded at Fort Apache by Sean Slade, Tim O’Hare and Carl Plaster. This was the music of the day [and] they weren’t as big as they should have been, but to us they were our favorite band. This was a new sound for us in Boston. It was heavy rock, but psychedelic, not metal like Aerosmith or Guns N’ Roses. Guitar players Nat Freedberg and Dave Fradette were a huge influence on me and my songwriting and guitar playing. So other than the Pixies there was Reeves Gabrels, later playing with Bowie. He [was] like a big brother [to me]. [We] were playing a gig one night at the Middle East. I looked out in the crowd and there was Bowie’s guitar player. I was blown away. He was with his woman and I said, “Reeves what are you doing here?” and he said, “I am here to see you!” I couldn’t believe it! We began a friendship, big brother little brother type. We talked a lot about favorite gigs, guitars, guitar sound; we had a lot in common, he was part of that Berklee super chops thing, but was getting into a more garage band thing. Then I met Rich Gilbert [Boston band Human Sexual Response] at a gig. He was into what I was doing. I asked him to come up and play a song with us; he didn’t want to do it at first but I talked him into it. We did, “Are You Experienced,” a cover we were doing at the time; it came out really good. It reminded me of [“Happenings Ten Years Time Ago”] a Yardbirds song that had Page and Beck on it. I felt a part of the Boston Elite Club of guitar players.

AUDREY CLARKE (AC): The Boston music scene was always a great scene, The Rat, Channel, Middle East, TT’s and tons of really great bands. Illuminated came out and was well received by the music community. Bands like O Positive (Link Label mates) and Mark Sandman (Treat Her Right/Morphine) took us under their wing, gave us some great shows.


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What sort of following did the 360’s have back then?

ER: Like I spoke of in question 3 they were a lot of the hip scene makers coming, press people, but [it was] surprising [to have fans] like Seka, death metal bands, guitar player Bill O’Malley — I became friends [with him]. We always had a lot of freaks [at our shows]. I started to notice the crowds looking more normal but I liked the freaks and people of the music biz scene. I remember one gig in NY: we met a promoter who was there to check us out for the Metropolis festival, which is the tour of Holland featured in the movie, The Year That Punk Broke. The cash from that one gig paid for our airfare and allowed us a two-week tour of Holland. We saw the mind blowing Nirvana show, and then you knew the change had come – it was called grunge, but rock and roll was cool again. I had met Billy Corgan, Gish had just come out and he told me he dug our record, and the office of Caroline Records had been listening to Illuminated all the time he was dating Courtney (you know who) at that time. We had just started to talk about guitars, gear – he did not have a very good show that night. He had a lot of trouble with his backline but before we could really get into it, Courtney said, “Who is that guy, he is nobody.” He apologized, we shook hands, and then watched Nirvana change music.

As far as our scene, there for a while it was hard to go to New York or Europe and play a huge show – people were really into what we were doing  – and then play home still trying to get gigs packed. But I can say we loved the Middle East. [It] had a great vibe [and we] never had a bad gig. I remember coming home from Europe and playing a big gig at Axis. It was for WFNX, packed [with] 500 or 600 , and the main P.A. kept going in and out – people were horrified, they couldn’t believe [that] we didn’t stop. We played through it; weird gig, but it was that night that we were approached with a record deal.

AC: We built up our following by playing a lot of local shows with our favorite bands, Titanics, The Lyres, Zulus, Bags etc. When the record came out we went from 100 people on a good night to 300 people and slowly began playing our own shows. At our peak we could pack the Middle East downstairs (800 people) or the Paradise (500 people).

What do you remember about the initial sessions for the record?

ER: First of all, I must talk about Sean Slade and Carl Plaster; anywhere we went with those guys we had a great vibe. Slade and Plaster were our favorite [producer and engineer team]. Slade had picked Birddog, a tiny little studio. I remember the recording desk and main control room were upstairs and the band would set up downstairs so no one could see each other and we had to talk through the mics. No visual [cues] so once we started playing it could be hard to stop us if they didn’t like the take. We started to get some great demos… whoops I’m getting ahead of myself.

First the Fort, Aka Fort Apache, had a North and South end. The North was high end and the South was low end for low budget recordings. The first recording was paid for by A&M’s Aaron Jacoves, the man who signed Soundgarden. We went into Fort South and set up live and were to record every song we had. I think we recorded about 12 tracks that day, everything live, no overdubs except for vocals. We got a few really good soundtracks that day: one was “Tripping With the Angels”, which made he radio and was the track that led us to getting signed and also a showcase for A&M, but it was there that we knew we had a record’s worth of material. So we lost interest from A&M, and soon after signed with Link – which leads us back to Birddog Studios pre-doc demos.

It was now our second time in the studio with Slade and Plaster. We had the whole day to do about 5 songs, which meant some overdubs. I remember “Deadpan Superstar” was the track that sounded really good that day; we did not have the ending on the record worked out yet, but we did a second try at “Tripping” [which] wasn’t any better than the live. We also tracked two songs, “Free” and “It”. It was decided that these would be released as a two song 45 to come out before the record, and was our first time in the Fort to cut these two songs with Andy Kipnes credited as Co-producer. Which was a joke, because I remember all [of] his production ideas left me confused and uptight – my first [time] in a really good studio [cutting] my first 45.

Kipnes was wrecking the cool relationship Slade and I had started to develop, like knowing what the other guy means without having to explain it all, so the laughable co-production of Andy Kipnes starting to wreck the guitar overdubs. I remember Slade and I going for a joint in the bathroom and him telling me to look at him [Andy Kipnes], nod your head, and ignore anything he says. It was too funny – it is making me laugh right now. We started to joke around that it is like a parent driving the car while the infant in the car seat thinks he is steering the car with a play steering wheel. Sorry; I had to add that. It is an insult to someone I know as a true professional, having Andy as co-producer.

AC: The initial sessions included a lot of demoing at Birddog Studios, a little studio in Cambridge owned by John Wood. We did our demos with Slade and Carl Plaster and Paul Kolderie. Some were done at The Fort (Fort Apache Studios) We had about 25 songs to choose from. Analog; there were no pro tools or auto tune back then. (Thank God.) We practiced five days a week, we’d get a coffee, smokes, and then head to rehearsal from 10 am to 2 pm. We worked really hard experimenting with sounds and vocals.


Who decided the running order of the record?

AC: Mostly democratic with Slade and Eric making the final decisions.

Being signed to Link, a subsidiary of Elektra Records, did that come with its own benefits and/or stress?

AC: Initially being signed to Link was perfect, a small indie label with distribution from Elektra, so it was nice being part of a small family but having the benefits of a major in terms of distribution and promotion.

Something that has always struck me about the record is the killer guitar sound. Eric, can you give us insight into the setup you had in the studio? What sort of gear (guitars/pedals/amps) did you use?

ER: At the time I was young and had just moved out on my own. I had very little money; all [the] early stuff was done with a Mesa Boogie studio Cal 22 amp brand new at the time. I talked Andy Kipnes into buying me a used Marshall Silver Jubilee 25th Anniversary half stack. It was 100-50-watt amp and depending on the sound I would run 50 watts for a softer, more gain type of sound, and would run 100 watts for a harder, punchier sound. I also would switch between 100 or 50 watts for live shows depending on the size of the club. The cab had Celestians G-12-75; they worked really well with the head. I have tried several Silver Jubilee and found the one I had sounded really good. Some of them not so good. It is the amp that Slash later made famous and is pretty much the same amp as the Slash model.

Guitars, I had one Charvel l used; not sure what model it was. I wanted something cooler but could not afford it. I covered the head stock with stickers to hide the Charvel logo. I had the Floyd Rose whammy blocked and it had a more organic sound and pre-amp built in that I always turned off. Then I beat it up and scratched it to make it look as old as it could. All in all, it sounded pretty good. The one problem with the guitar: it doesn’t clean up when you turn the volume down. As far as the pedals, I had two really cool TC electronics pedals; the first one I got was a chorus flanger [with] an input gain that I always turn up. The other TC pedal was parametric E.Q that had a sustainer with distortion. This had a lot to do with my tone that I used on almost all lead tracks. The end lead in “Texas” is a good example of this sound. I also used an Ibanez T610 Tube Screamer; most leads had both pedals o, but the whole record was done using various combinations of these pedals.

 Can you go into detail about working with producer Sean Slade? How much did he tweak the sound of the record? What were some of the decisions regarding the record you felt benefitted from his hand, and what if any do you feel critical of to this day?

AC: Slade was absolutely the 5th member of the band. His input was essential including arrangements and Eric/Slade had a true vision for the album. Slade is a master of vocal recording. He’s a great vocal arranger, especially with female singers. He also had a great collection of vintage amps and guitars. Slade understood us as a band and we were a “Real Band”, 4 people who created together, the right combination. He got the best performances from the band without being harsh. We all communicated so well together, personality wise and musically we connected as friends an as musicians. He is a genius producer.

In terms of how the record was mixed, what were some of the choices Andy Wallace made?

ER: In terms of the mix, Andy Wallace – what a cool guy. Slade and I show up to Bearsville: my first time ever being at a world class studio. We walk in and this assistant who had just finished working on the Cinderella record starts giving Slade and me major attitude, making us feel really nervous, like, who are you guys. We later nicknamed him Poodlecloo – nice haircut. Andy walks in and immediately puts the guy in his place. We set the decks up for the mix the way he wants them. We make some small talk for half an hour. He carries a small gym bag with him: in it, a towel, two big bags of Hydrox Double Stuff cookies. This is standard for any mix session; the rest is all top secret mix programs he brings to all mixes. I think they have something to do with the drum sounds. He looks at us and says politely, everyone out! He sets up his secret programs and he will call us when he is done once he sets things the way he likes them. He is very diplomatic about mixing the songs, making sure that Slade and I are happy with any of the mixes, asking if we have any ideas we aren’t hearing. He is very easy to work with, super humble, really into what the band [and Slade] thinks.

The more we mixed the faster the sound of the record took shape. I think he mixed the whole record in two days. I [believe] we mixed almost in the order or sequence of the record. He really liked the record; the guitar sounds are pretty close to the way they were recorded. Some leads had two takes and I remember he let them both go in the mix. Andy and Sean spent most of the time on the vocals. Sean is a great vocal producer. They did a lot of mixes with the vox where Andy or Sean liked them ,then they would do vocals up 2 dB then down 2 dB, then we would vote on the one we liked. Also, the studio had us set up in our own house. They owned several houses around town.

After 1 or 2 mixes we were really happy with what we were hearing. The mixes sounded great, so Slade and I would go back to the house, [then] the studio would call us to come over and listen to the next mix and add whatever we wanted to guitar, drums, vox, bass etc. He was humble [with] everything he [did] and very concerned that we were happy with the mixes, even over the opinion of the record label. [He was] a band mate, team player, a true friend. What a great guy. I wish we could have mixed the record with just Andy Wallace, Sean Slade and myself with no input from Andy Kipnes. Andy Wallace would call us in to listen to an early mix and it would sound so heavy and rockin’ and Andy Kipnes would say turn that down, that’s too heavy, turn down the guitars, they are too heavy. Andy Kipnes was too worried about sounding commercial and we did not see it that way, nor did Andy Wallace. Sometimes we would pretend that we were turning things down and leave them the same. He could not really tell the difference once we were mixing. Andy Wallace could be a real advocate for the band!

AC: I wasn’t at the Illuminated mixing sessions.

Single poster

There are 10 tracks on the CD: how many songs were recorded for the Illuminated sessions? What happened to the tracks that were jettisoned?

AC: 10 songs for the record and another 3-5 that were B-sides for the singles. “Are You Experienced” (Hendrix cover), “Wild Roads”, “Horror Movie Soundtrack”.

A track like “Put That Behind Me” is one hell of a badass tune; tell us the origin of the song?

AC: “Put That Behind Me” was my least favorite song on the record. Slade insisted it was a great tune so we recorded it. I don’t think we ever played it live. I like it much more these days. It’s a story about getting older playing in a band and losing inspiration.

The album has always struck me as if I witnessed something horrific and lived to tell the tale. The album seems to go to some really dark places. Can you talk about what was the inspiration for some of the tracks on the record like “Texas”, “Illuminated” as well as “Deadpan Superstar”?

AC: “Texas” was a riff Eric had. The intro the band was working on. Lyrically, our friends from the band The Titanics were going to play in Texas and we kept chanting “Texas” over the riff – the book The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry was a big inspiration for the song.

“Illuminated” was written at 3am. I wrote the song in a dream, got up and grabbed my guitar; the song wrote itself, divine inspiration. Lyrically it also came from the dream, with exception to the lyrics my 4-year-old son wrote. I asked him to just say whatever was on his mind. He was jumping on the sofa and said, “I am falling, I’m so tall.” The song was now finished.

“Deadpan Superstar”, Eric wrote the song and Lori Kramer my sister and I were singing over the song. The lyrics were about Lori’s best friend Becky who had recently killed herself. Lori was devastated. “They picked her up today outside” was her being picked up on the street for some indiscretion. “She was looking in a shop store window or was that a greenfield somewhere”, not knowing where she was. She had a mental breakdown. She was an X-doll and vampire (she was a stripper at the time). It’s a story about a beautiful person that unfortunately couldn’t deal with her world.

360s CD

What does the album cover represent?

AC: The album cover was an artist rendering of the Universe—stars sun moon.

 So, when you were gearing up for the release of the record, what it was like to listen to the completed album?

AC: When the record was mixed by Andy Wallace at Bearsville Studios, I was not at the mix as I had a young son. Eric, Slade, Andy mixed the record, so it was a surprise. I thought it sounded great. Andy Wallace is a fine producer. We were really blessed to have Slade and Andy at the board.


 How did the label promote the record?

AC: Upon release of the record Bruce McDonald and Laura Norden of Link did a blitz of all the major magazines /newspapers. A week after the release Jon Pareles gave us Record of the Week in the New York Times. We got fantastic press and were invited to Europe shortly afterwards, particularly Amsterdam and the Netherlands, performing at the Metropolis festival in Rotterdam: 1991-The Year Punk Broke with Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Smashing Pumpkins. We played outdoors in front of 10,000 people. Upon return we did CMJ in NYC at the Marquee Club where Joey Ramone and I hung out and introduced the band to NYC. The record release party was held at the Middle East club in Cambridge, Boston’s best club, and it was a fantastic night.

That year we received best new band at the Boston Music Awards. We did not tour really on Illuminated but on Supernatural, our second release, we toured with the Soup Dragons, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, as well as Levitation, and we were supposed to do the Radiohead tour but there was not enough money to fund the tour. We played with Urge Overkill, Swervedriver, Dead Moon, Lyres, Morphine, The Pixies and loads of other great bands.

Audrey and Eric at Lemon Recs 1992

 These days when I hear bands like The Heartless Bastards I can hear the 360’s influence. Has the band ever thought of making a comeback and taking back the musical ground you forged and that bands like the Bastards seem to be mining for all its worth?

AC: I’m not sure about making a comeback per se. We never really stopped being 360’s. The original group will never be again due to our bassist Brian Evans is MIA in California (no contact for 20 years) and our drummer John Grady is my ex-brother in law. Eric and I will always make music together; we’ve been a couple since 1990 – the band consists of Eric, me, and my son Ian on drums and Linda Bean on bass. This was really my favorite lineup. Sadly Linda has decided to drop out and we are trying out “Lorde Buckingham,” a very fine player, this month for some local shows, and recording a double set of music. We have some interest, and with Sean Slade and Jon Magoon (engineer) we are looking forward to a project—analog of course.




 I first met Audrey sometime in 1989. Paul Kolderie and I had taken a trip to LA to meet label people, hand out our demo reel, and see if we could dig up some gigs. One of the more friendly A&R guys was Aaron Jacoves at A&M:

he was a fan of Audrey from one of her earlier Boston rock combos, and he offered to pay for a session. We invited her to Fort Apache to sing on some cover tunes we’d selected for her; the one that clicked was her version of “Boys In Town” by the Divinyls, and we really hit it off on a musical and personal level. She booked the studio again sometime later with her new band The Bardots, which was the 360s, only with a different bass player. We produced a couple of songs that got on local radio, and drew the attention of Andy Kipnes at Link Records.

When Andy signed the band, the idea was to make an album, but there was no formal budget given (at least not to me). At this point Kolderie was busy with other projects, so I produced and engineered the sessions. Time was booked at Fort Apache North (our 24-track joint), but only in 3 to 4 day slots. There was no pre-production at all; we had neither the budget nor the inclination for such niceties. No structural changes were made to the songs, because they didn’t need them. I had never seen them live; all I knew is that I liked them and they were all great musicians. We’d set up, and record the full band live, as if at a show. No bass overdubs were done, because we were going for the pure live energy of the full rhythm section. (A lot of Audrey’s guitar takes were keepers too.) As soon as a basic was cut, Eric would overdub one or two extra rhythm guitars, always recorded with the shortest possible signal path: the mic(s) into John Hardy mic pre’s, then straight into the back of the tape recorder. Audrey would sing her vocals, which I usually edited/compiled after the band had gone home. Eric’s solos were always beautifully conceived and composed; one or two takes, and bam!, instant Rock. The only other essential overdubs were the background vocals, sung by me (once again, after the band had left) in a high falsetto that was designed to be subtly mixed in and appear to be Audrey singing. (Although I wasn’t trying to imitate her; I had no idea what her high falsetto might have sounded like. Just a crazy idea that worked, and the band liked.)

So essentially, Illuminated was recorded quickly, in an intuitive, almost thoughtless fashion. The band’s creativity was flying around, fast and loose, aided by copious amounts of then-illegal medicinal herbs, cheap beer, and non-stop 70s porn videotapes playing on the TV set in the lounge. (Kindly provided by Carl Plaster, a Fort engineer and a connoisseur of the genre. The sound at the end of “Texas” is John Holmes and Tracey Lords, played backwards.) Eric and I would work together to make sure the guitar tones on the album were cool and varied, but as far as each song goes, it was always he and I just trying to have fun; there was never a grand plan to “sculpt” anything.

But the loose plan for completion was to do enough of these short sessions until we had enough material to mix and turn into a full-length LP. There were no songs that were difficult to get in the studio, and no outtakes (at least that I can remember). So once again, any of the current “rules” of making albums were not adhered to. We were doing it (to borrow a phrase) fast, cheap, and out-of-control.

I do remember pulling a Guy Stevens routine, running around the control room in crazed delirium when they played a particularly inspired take. The band could see me through the large window, and they said it was highly motivating.

Bearsville barn studio

When we had the album recorded, Kipnes drove up to listen and was satisfied. The plan was always to have the album mixed by Andy Wallace (who Kipnes managed), at Bearsville Studio (above) in upstate NY, a legendary place where Kipnes was friends with the owner and got great deals on time. Audrey, Eric and I drove to NY with the 24 track masters, and Andy mixed the album very quickly, over the course of a three-day weekend on the SSL console in Bearsville Studio B. He did a terrific job, and of course would soon become justifiably famous for mixing Nirvana’s “Nevermind.” He totally understood the blend of hard rock and psychedelia we were going for, and he liked the trippy solos and the crazy background harmonies (he mixed them in the exact right spot). When Wallace finished, I came up with a provisional sequence, which ended up being the final one, and everyone was elated. (It sounded especially good played back at crushing volume on the studio’s “big” wall speakers.)

I haven’t listened to the whole album in quite a while (my copy is tucked away in my archive at my studio up in Maine), but when I’ve heard individual songs recently, they sound very alive, wild, and free to me, and immediately bring me back to the joyous rock ‘n’ roll experience of recording with the 360’s, a great band.

THROWING HORNS: Blurt’s Metal Roundup Pt. 666.8



Hard rock! Stoner metal! Crustcore! Psychedelia! Grunge! Thrash! Skronk! Black metal! Trash punk! Bad boy boogie! (huh?) Smell the glove and make the sign of the umlaut, kids, it’s the seventh installment in our latest genre study, with Kylesa (above), Killing Joke, Clutch, Baroness, Locrian, Sunn O))), Children of Bodom, Panopticon and more. Go here to read the first episode, Pt. 666.1, here for Pt. 666.2, here for Pt. 666.3, here for Pt. 666.4, here for Pt. 666.5, here for 666.6 and here for 666.7—if you dare. Incidentally, following the text are links to audio and video of the bands discussed, so check ’em out.


Already respected as a leader in the fertile Savannah, GA metal scene, Kylesa has also stepped up as a forward thinker in the national metal scene – its last two records Ultraviolet and Spiral Shadow found the band moving way beyond its sludge/death roots into new realms of doom, prog, noise and psych. Exhausting Fire (Retro Futurist/Season of Mist) keeps the band on that path. Now reduced to the trio of drummer Carl McGinley and co-leaders Philip Cope and Laura Pleasants, Kylesa streamlines its eclectic approach, making the dreaminess dreamier and the boogie boogier. Alternating psychedelic singalong choruses with mystic jangle and heads-down riffage, “Growing Roots,” “Inward Debate,” “Shaping the Southern Sky” and a strange, acid-fried cover of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” artfully weave shimmer and crunch into brilliant rawk ‘n’ roar nuggets that perfectly capture the retro futurism of its label’s name. If this upward swing sustains, Kylesa may very well change the face of metal.


Far weirder, though, is Know How to Carry a Whip (Neurot), the second album from experimental metal supergroup Corrections House. The follow-up to eyebrow-raising debut Last City Zero, Whip delves deeply into the same seething mix of doom, industrial and avant-wackiness, from blasted mindgames like “Crossing My One Good Finger” to artfucked folk like “Visions Divide” and urban hellscapes like “When Push Comes to Shank.” The difference is that somehow Mike IX Williams (Eyehategod), Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) and Sanford Parker (Minsk, etc.) manage to make all this ugliness melodic, even catchy at times, which just makes it more insidiously essential.


Chicago trio Locrian artfully plunders various elements of black metal, noise rock, drone, electronica and other left-of-center sonics on its sixth LP Infinite Dissolution (Relapse). Grinding guitars, majestic keyboards, rhythms that run from languid to pounding and vocals roared more for texture than clarity conjure a mood of almost grand desolation – “An Index of Air” and “The Great Dying” wallow in a suffering so lush it’s nearly sensual. Also on the odder side of heavy comes BigǀBrave, a Montreal trio that alternates betwixt ethereal drones and heavy crunch on its second album Au de La (Southern Lord). Though fronted by Robin Wattie’s blurred-vision coo, the band ain’t afraid to drill holes in the substrata – the 12-minute “Look at How the World Has Made a Change” sounds like Steve Albini whipping an orgy involving Sonic Youth, Bjork and Neurosis into shape.

 Whore Paint_WP_Ultrasound_album_cover

Whore Paint prefer the noisier side of the avant-garde on Ultra Sound (Translation Loss) – cf. the seethingly rocking “Dogs” and “Maiden.” In truth, metal is only one part of this Providence trio’s worldview, especially given Rebecca Mitchell’s keening croonhowl, but axeperson Hilary Jones’ grunged-out riffage betrays enough headbanger chops to attract heshers as well as hipsters. Pigs jump even further into chaos theory on second LP Wronger (Solar Flare). Laying paint-peeling swathes of speaker-shredding guitar scree and distorted ranting atop pounding rock rhythms, the band throttles “The Life in Pink,” “Mope” and the dignity-defying “Amateur Hour in Dick City” like a meth-addled punk metal act at the bottom of the bill. But what do you expect from members of Unsane, Cutthroats 9 and JJ Paradise Players Club? Carpenters covers?


The king daddy of experimental metal/noise bands, Sunn 0))) finally returns with its first “solo” album since 2009’s Monoliths & Dimensions. (Collaborative LPs with Ulver and Scott Walker have appeared in the interim.) Kannon (Southern Lord) allegedly adapts the “goddess of mercy” aspect of the Buddha to music, supported by an essay by critical theorist Aliza Shvartz and graphics by Swiss artist Angela LaFont Bollinger. Buy into or don’t, but the sounds surrounding the philosophy go back to the band’s core sound. Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson harness feedback and drone for waves of undulating grunge, while vocalist Attila Csihar moans, shrieks and chants in the background. Longtime cohorts Oren Ambarchi, Steve Moore (the member of Earth, not the member of Zombi) and Rex Ritter add their two cents, but the focus is on the core trio. It’s a simple plan, but executed to make maximum meditative beauty out of distorted drone, spiralling deeply into realms as spiritual as they are tactile. Regardless of whether or not you connect with the ideas, the music does exactly what Sunn 0))) does best.


Sometimes the most metal thing an act can do isn’t metal at all. Thus Autumn Eternal (Lost Forty/Bindrune), the latest album from Panopticon, begins with “Tamaract’s Gold Returns,” an acoustic fiddle/dobro instrumental that sounds like it hails from MCA Records’ late 80s Master Series. Kentucky-bred/Minnesota-based multi-instrumentalist Austin Lunn returns to blazing black metal soon enough, as “Into the North Moods” and the title track rip through anthemic melodies and thrashing backbeats with the energy of a forest fire. An ironic comparison, actually, as the intense libretto and panoramic sweep of “Oaks Ablaze,” “Pale Ghosts” and the massive “Sleep to the Sound of the Waves Crashing” – not to mention the quotation-heavy liner notes – indicate a deep respect for Mother Nature and concern for the suffering she endures as human hands. Matched to music as impressive in its deliberate aggression as its tuneful majesty, Lunn’s themes burrow into your subconscious while your head bangs. Not the groundbreaker that last year’s Roads to the North was, but Autumn Eternal is still a stunner.


Following an announced breakup that never quite occurred, Abigail Williams erupts on record once again with The Accuser (Candlelight). Given the involvement from members of hatemongering death mutants Indian and Lord Mantis, it’s no surprise that the Olympia, Washington-based black metal troop assaults its instruments with a roaring blend of clinical precision and brutal savagery, letting no melody go unmolested. Leader Ken Sorceron sounds possessed by demons with emotional problems on raging anthems “The Cold Lines” and “Of the Outer Darkness.” Even when traces of the band’s original symphonic style start creeping in on “Godhead” and “Nuummite,” the fury never lets up. An ear bleeder, but you’ll savor blotting every drop.


The demise of USBM supergroup Twilight signals sort of a passing of the torch, as the original wave of depressive black metal folks make way for the new generation. A collaboration betwixt highly acclaimed USBM weirdos and brothers of different mothers K. Morgan of Ash Borer and Michael Rekevics of Fell Voices, Vanum rages through flamethrowing black metal on Realm of Sacrifice (Profound Lore). Four long tracks of wall-of-shit guitars, psychotic growls and hurricane drums – check out “Convergence” for some rockingly oppressive pound. Also a side project from pals in other bands, Vhöl pretty much swirls all of its members’ influences together on sophomore non-slump Deeper Than Sky (Profound Lore). Guitarist John Cobbett formerly led San Fran black metal troop Ludicra, leads prog metal band Hammers of Misfortune and did time in trad metal troop Slough Feg, while singer Mike Scheidt leads doomcrusher YOB and bassist Sigrid Sheie and drummer Aesop Dekker have both been in Cobbett’s various acts. Bits of all of it pop up here, though the primary aesthetic for songs like “The Desolate Damned” and “Red Chaos” seems to be a punk-infused thrash. Regardless, everybody sounds like they’re having a grand old time headbanging their brains out – or not, as on the piano-pounding pallette-cleanser “Paino.”


One of the world’s most popular extreme metal acts, Children of Bodom doesn’t fuck around on I Worship Chaos (Nuclear Blast), the Finnish outfit’s ninth record. With the band suddenly shorn a guitarist, bandleader and sole six-stringer Alexi Laiho tightens up its blackened power metal until it’s a coiled cobra, ready to strike the moment a needle disturbs its sleep. The lighter-waving arrangements and Laiho’s blood vessel-popping shriek keep the mood on a constant steroid high, with only the interplay between he and keyboardist Janne Wirman offering any respite. Taken as a whole, Chaos can be exhausting, but individual tracks – particularly “Morrigan” and “Hold Your Tongue” – hit harder than a hammer in Oh Dae-su’s hands.

Decomposed_Hope Finally Died_CDL611CD

London’s Harry Armstrong is one of those long-serving metalheads who does it purely for the love of it, plugging away in numerous bands of varying quality (End of Level Boss, Hangnail, the Earls of Mars) without ever climbing out of deep cult status. While most folks think of Hangnail as his first act of note, his journey actually began in the early 90s with Decomposed. Originally issued in 1993 as one of Candlelight’s first releases, Hope Finally Died ended up as the U.K. quartet’s sole LP. The band’s viscous blend of doom and death metal is pretty standard fare these days, but at the time it was fairly revolutionary, all grinding riffs, molasses rhythms and Armstrong’s unintelligibly guttural roar. Decomposed may have never gained the major cult followings of its peers Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, but the aggressively chunky “Falling Apart” and ambiently strange “(Forever) Lying in State” hold up nicely.

Rivers of Nihil - Monarchy

Since its emergence, Rivers of Nihil has been praised for putting its own distinctive spin on traditionalist death metal. That’s definitely apparent on Monarchy (Metal Blade), the Reading, Pennsylvania quintet’s second LP. Mixing growling riffs with a variable rhythm section and just enough melody to avoid chaos, the band finds a balance between grace and brutality that, despite the inappropriateness of using such a word when describing something this ugly, can only be described as delicate. “Sand Baptism” and “Perpetual Growth Machine” are the perfect cuts to play for both your hipster metal and snobby headbanger friends, while “Terrestria II: Thrive” points to toward the progressive sphere inhabited by pioneers like Atheist and Cynic. Speaking of Atheist, this year sees the second reissue of Unquestionable Presence (Season of Mist), the Florida band’s trailblazing second album. Originally released in 1991, Unquestionable Presence rewrote the rules of death metal, blending elements of jazz, world music and progressive rock with savage riffing and inhuman pummeling to create a vision technical death bands have been trying to catch up to ever since. Last in print in 2005, it’s a brain-frying masterpiece deserved of discovery by open-minded thrashaholics of all stripes.


The leading light of the current generation of U.K. death-doomers, Indesinence builds on the foundation set by its predecessors with more melody, more atmosphere, surprisingly articulate growling and a whole lotta acid. III (Profound Lore) – the band’s third LP, natch – wallows in its own peculiar blend of Lovecraftian weirdness and dark-corner psychedelia, letting crawling epics “Embryo Limbo,” “Mountains of Mind” and the absolutely massive “Strange Meridian” ebb and flow like hallucinations during a trip. Further telegraphing the trio’s mindset: lush use of Mellotron, the recruitment of Robert Roth, former leader of ’90s Seattle psych/grunge band Truly, as a guest, and a cover of the Third Bardo’s 1967 nugget “I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time.” Though hailing from Detroit, Temple of Void hews to a similar tradition on Of Terror and the Supernatural (Shadow Kingdom), though the psych strains get pushed so far under the covers they’re barely tickling our toes. Still, the relentless quintet knows how to lay down a thick and brutal grunge, vanguarded by Mike Erdody’s unusually articulate yet utterly monstrous groars. Which makes the appearance of acoustic guitars and Mellotron in the otherwise crushing “To Carry This Corpse Evermore” all the more startling and welcome. Finland’s Hooded Menace also lets psychedelia sit as feel rather than form on its new album Darkness Drips Forth (Relapse), four long tracks that channel the horrors running through the minds of the cadaverous Knights Templar from the Spanish Blind Dead film series. Sample the charmingly titled “Elysium of Dripping Death” for a treatise on savage, lugubrious, haunted doomdeath.


Immortal Bird made a huge, ugly mark with its debut EP Akrasia a couple of years ago, and its five-song/half-hour follow-up Empress/Abscess (Broken Limbs/Manatee Rampage) is no less impressive. Fiercely aggressive yet surprisingly accessible, if such a word can be applied to a band that freely mixes black metal, death metal and grindcore, the Chicago quartet rips a new earhole to anyone within range – “Sycophant” and “Saprophyte” take no prisoners unless it’s to mutilate them later. Singer/drummer Rae Amitay remains a force of nature, in much the same way as a hurricane that’s laying waste to some hapless coastline. Don’t piss her off, folks. And speaking of grind, scene godhead Pig Destroyer celebrates the reissue of its landmark 2001 LP Prowler in the Yard (Relapse). Given a remix and remaster, speed-demon blasts of obscene fury “Pornographic Memory,” “Scatology Homework” and “Strangled With a Halo” are even more efficiently brutal. The 23 tracks (in 37 minutes!) wield chainsaws of thrash/death riffery and scorched lung screams to smear shit over anything shiny and clean. Pig Destroyer is often considered the ultimate grindcore band; this album is the reason why.


Self-described “gloom metal” trio North (who hail from Arizona, naturally) tease next year’s forthcoming new LP with digital single Through Raven’s Eyes (Prosthetic). “Old Blood” crunches along slowly but heartily via doom dynamics and Evan Leek’s defiant shout, but “Silverfeather” drifts into different territory atop a sea of ambient distortion and melancholy piano. Bringing those two approaches together should yield an interesting full-length. Halfway across the world, Hope Drone isn’t feeling any chippier. The band’s inspired name hints at the contents of the massive Cloak of Ash (Relapse) – tortured, atmospheric, doom-soaked black metal with epic lengths (the entire record is over 75 minutes) and titles like “Unending Grey” and “Every End is Fated in Its Beginning.” The emotionally fragile ought to proceed with caution.

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The forefathers of American doom metal, Pentagram returns after a four-year recording hiatus with Curious Volume (Peaceville), the eighth album in an almost comically checkered 40-year career. Still on a roll following a few years of consistent roadwork, leader Bobby Liebling sounds fired up and refreshed here, his hawk-like voice clear and sharp. Longtime off-and-on partner Victor Griffin, along with veteran bassist Greg Turley and ex-Sixty Watt Shaman skinsman Minnesota Pete Campbell, provide powerhouse backdrops, often packing as many riffs per song as lesser bands would use to construct entire albums. Between Griffin’s absolute mastery of doom metal guitar and Liebling’s compellingly wild-eyed singing, “Earth Flight,” “The Devil’s Playground” and “The Tempter Push” deliver all the power, punch and macho menace you want from an old-fashioned headbanger’s delight. At this point, Liebling is probably best known for the harrowing documentary Last Days Here, but Curious Volume proves he should be lauded for his legendary metal status, not his ability to overcome self-imposed adversity.

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Speaking of doom masters, Lee Dorrian may have put the beloved Cathedral to rest after a couple of decades, but he’s not out of the game. Besides continuing to run the magnificent Rise Above label, the vocalist joins with fellow doom vets Tim Bagshaw and Mark Greening (Electric Wizard, Ramsess, Serpentine Path) in With the Dead. Via relentlessly lumbering riffs and Dorrian’s distorted declamation, the trio’s self-titled slab oozes occult nastiness and general bad vibes, aided (not unusually for a Dorrian project) by horror flick samples. Play “I Am Your Virus” or “Screams From My Own Grave” on your porch during Halloween and see how many kids still show up. Former Rise Above rosteree Witchsorrow returns with No Light, Only Fire (Candlelight), harder, meaner and more nihilistic than before. Tracks like “To the Gallows” and “Made of the Void” roar as loudly as they rumble, as leader Necroskull makes plain his disgust with the rest of his fellow hairless apes. Thanks to the trio’s command of form, the warnings of “Negative Utopia” and “Disaster Reality” go down easy.

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Following the 2013 double-whammy of Mouths of Madness and the reissue of its early work as The Zodiac Sessions, San Francisco’s Orchid return with a new EP. Sign of the Witch (Nuclear Blast) continues the foursome’s bluesy take on Black Sabbath, refining its grasp of melodic riffs and letting charismatic frontdude Theo Mindell shine brighter than ever. “John the Tiger” would be a classic rock staple had it been released 40 years ago. Also on a proto-metal tip, Uncle Acid (without the Deadbeats?) returns with third U.S. release The Night Creeper (Rise Above), which skips the slump of its prior platter for a steaming slab that’s heavier, more melodic and more psychedelic all at once. Check out the roaring “Pusher Man,” the mellow “Yellow Moon” and the epically trippy “Slow Death” (not the Flamin Groovies tune) for some prime acid metal.


The mighty Snail first blasted into consciousness in 1993 with its self-titled album, resurrecting itself 15 years later. The Seattle trio’s third LP since reuniting, Feral (Small Stone) pulls together several strains of heaviosity for a lush, crunchy odyssey through riff and roil. Leader Mark Johnson (whose diverse c.v. includes stints with Christian hardcore act The Crucified and deathcore beast Blessing the Hogs) spews out tuneful acid metal with the right balance of psychedelic craft and controlled chaos, putting “Born in Captivity,” “Psilocybe” and the titanic “Thou Are That” in rarefied dimensions usually resolved for Steve Ditko’s Dr. Strange. Merging the doomy crunge of early Black Sabbath with the mystic smash of Masters of Reality and the melodic thwomp of Failure, Snail whips up a smooth fury that would make dinosaurs dance.

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Vancouver’s We Hunt Buffalo is a bit more traditional when it comes to stoner rock. But that doesn’t make Living Ghosts (Fuzzorama), the trio’s sophomore LP, any less satisfying. Surging rhythms and smooth ‘n’ screamy vocals give the tracks spicy flavors, but, like all good stoner rock, the riffs matter most, and they drive “Prairie Oyster,” “Comatose” and “Ragnarok” like Dean Winchester behind the wheel of his Dodge Charger. Heavier and nastier, Funeral Horse takes many of the same aesthetic markers and beats them unmercifully on Divinity For the Wicked (Artificial Head), the Houston triad’s third album. Thick reams of sperm whale riffery try in vain to bury distorted shouts, like a band of crusty punks climbing their way out of a canyon of the bad acid. Between blazing guitorgies like “Gods of Savages” and stomping nightmares like “Underneath All That Ever Was,” Funeral Horse has the bad trip market all sewn up. Across the pond, Germany’s Bison Machine adds some Detroit power rock to psychedelic stoner boogie on Hoarfrost (Kozmik Artifactz/Bilocation), with might, melody and cool tones charging “Cosmic Ark,” “Speed of Darkness” and “Old Moon.”


L.A.’s Huntress made a splash a couple of years ago with its sophomore record Starbound Beast and its goofily memorable Lemmy-co-penned single “I Wanna Fuck You to Death.” Nothing on Static (Napalm) is quite that startling, but overall the record is more consistent than its predecessors. The band is in full command of its thrashy street metal, as leader Jill Janus – ex-opera singer, mental disorder sufferer, cancer survivor and full-on metal warrior – brings her A-game to “Flesh,” “Four Blood Moons” and “Harsh Times on Planet Stoked.” Over on the other coast, Pittsburgh’s Carousel made noise with its excellent debut Jeweler’s Daughter, as fine a retro hard rock record as anyone’s recorded in the last few years. Now the quartet – with former Pentagram/current The Skull axebeast Matt Goldsborough in tow – is back with follow-up 2113 (Tee Pee). Sublimating its NWoBHM influences in deference to old-fashioned American hard rock, Carousel keeps the wheels rolling with “Man Like Me,” Photograph“” and “Highway Strut” and the lighters blazing on “Strange Revelation” and a cover of Joe Walsh’s “Turn to Stone.”


Formed by Dirty D from the long-gone B-Movie Rats and Angus Khan, Steven Darrow from the even longer-gone Guns ‘N Roses precursor Hollywood Rose and the rhythm section from Goatsnake, Sonic Medusa tapes into the same boundless source of energy on its debut EP The Sunset Soundhouse Tapes (Ripple), throwing in cups of NWoBHM and doom and a couple tablespoons of early 70s blues metal for killer cuts “Medusa,” “Cold Wind” and “Wolf’s Prayer.” Meat and potatoes and proud of it. Also comprised of components of other bands (Satan’s Wrath, Repulsion, Electric Wizard), Mirror puts one foot almost defiantly into the British end of the pool, while keeping the other firmly on American soil. Recalling precedents set by Americans Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol, Brits Angel Witch and Demon and hybrids Rainbow, epic melodic roars like “Curse of the Gypsy,” “Madness & Magick” and “Cloak of a Thousand Secrets” make Mirror’s self-titled debut LP (Metal Blade) a retro delight.


Clutch has never fit comfortably under any banner, hopping around from groovy demi-metal to bluesy classic rock over the course of its 25-year career. Of late it’s been on a straightforward hard rock kick, inspired by a Motörhead tour, which in turn inspired career highlight Earth Rocker. While it would be unfair to call Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker) Earth Rocker 2, the follow-up certainly barrels down the same stripped-down road. Produced by longtime cohort Machine and powered, as always, by Tim Sult’s grungy riffs, Jean-Paul Gaster’s danceable grooves and Neil Fallon’s unselfconsciously quirky lyrics, the funky “A Quick Death in Texas,” thrashing “Noble Savage,” soulful “Our Lady of Electric Light” and blazing “X-Ray Visions” are instant Clutch classics and will likely be on the band’s setlists for years to come.

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You can’t get a more credible metal pedigree than Publicist UK – the lineup includes members of Municipal Waste, Revocation and Burnt By the Sun. Yet Forgive Yourself (Relapse) isn’t metal at all, despite a pack of power chords and rampaging rhythms. Instead, “Cowards” and “Levitate the Pentagon” plow a thick, deep postpunk furrow, led by Zachary Lipez’ dramatic baritone. Reminiscent of Killing Joke (at least in the latter’s less apocalyptic moments) and the late, great Beastmilk. Speaking of Beastmilk, the Finnish band’s recent demise sowed the seeds for Grave Pleasures. A veritable cemetery of former notables, the band also contains ex-members of In Solitude and, in guitarist Linnéa Olsson, the mighty but short-lived Oath. Picking up on Dreamcrash (Metal Blade) where Beastmilk left off, GP eases up on the aggression but pumps up the melodrama, sounding like a mid-80s UK guitar band enamored of both the Smiths and U2. For better or worse the father of it all, the aforementioned Killing Joke keeps its boulder rolling on Pylon (Spinefarm), its third LP since reuniting the original lineup. Still driven by Paul Ferguson’s rumbling drums, Geordie’s crunchy chords and Jaz Coleman’s endtime visions, but with an added dose of anthemic melody, the Joke fills “Dawn of the Hive,” “Big Buzz” and “Into the Unknown” with enough jagged futureshock to inspire another generation of postpunk and metal bands.


Finally, we celebrate the return to action of Baroness. The details of the Savannah quartet’s derailment following the release of 2012’s Yellow & Green are pretty well-known by now; if you’re curious, just Google “Baroness accident” for some harrowing details. Purple (Abraxas Hymns), the band’s first LP on its own label, is informed by the accident but not defined by it. This is no catalog of misery, but a defiant howl of affirmation. Working with producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, etc.), Baroness eschews wallowing in its own pain, instead using it to intensify the feeling that life must and will go on. That energy suffuses every second of the record, from the ambitious epic “Chlorine & Wine” to the blasting rockers “Shock Me” and “Kerosene” to the widescreen ballad “If I Have to Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain).” Following up the brilliant Yellow & Green would never have been an easy task, but Baroness used its adversity to make Purple another vibrantly rocking, surprisingly beautiful masterpiece.


Columnist Michael Toland lives and works in Austin, TX, where a major boulevard was recently rechristened—under the cover of darkness, and without official approval—after the late David Bowie. While no one has been directly accused of vandalism of public property, Toland has remained suspiciously mum about the entire incident. However, his Lone Star State accomplices include media heavy hitters The Austin Chronicle and KLRU-TV, so draw your own conclusions.




Abigail Williams The Accuser bandcamp:


AtheistUnquestionable Presence bandcamp:


Baroness – “Shock Me”:


BigǀBrave Au De La bandcamp:


Bison Machine Hoarfrost bandcamp:


Carousel – “Trouble”:


Children of Bodom – “I Worship Chaos”:


Clutch – “X-Ray Visions”:


Corrections House Know How to Carry a Whip stream:


DecomposedHope Finally Died bandcamp:


Funeral HorseDivinity For the Wicked bandcamp:


Grave Pleasures – “New Hip Moon”:


Hooded MenaceDarkness Drips Forth bandcamp:


Hope DroneCloak of Ash bandcamp:


Huntress – “Flesh”:


Immortal BirdEmpress/Abscess bandcamp:


IndesinenceIII bandcamp:


Killing Joke – “Euphoria”:


KylesaExhausting Fire bandcamp:


LocrianInfinite Dissolution bandcamp:


Mirror – “Heavy King”:


NorthThrough Raven’s Eyes bandcamp:


Orchid – “Sign of the Witch”:


PanopticonAutumn Eternal bandcamp:


Pentagram – “Misunderstood”:


Pig DestroyerProwler in the Yard bandcamp:


PigsWronger stream:


Publicist UKForget Yourself bandcamp:


Rivers of Nihil Monarchy bandcamp:


Shining – “I Won’t Forget”:


SnailFeral bandcamp:


Sonic Medusa The Sunset Soundhouse Tapes stream:


Temple of Void Of Terror and the Supernatural bandcamp:


Uncle Acid – “Waiting For Blood”:


Vanum Realm of Sacrifice bandcamp:


VhölDeeper Than Sky bandcamp:


We Hunt BuffaloLiving Ghosts bandcamp:


Whore Paint – “Dogs”:


WitchsorrowNo Light Only Fire bandcamp:


With the Dead – “Living With the Dead”:



PHOTOS & REVIEW: Deerhunter 1/8/16, Atlanta

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On January 8 at Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse, the maverick Georgia band demonstrated why it is unquestionably one of the best in the entire country.


Is Deerhunter the coolest band in the world?  Of course.  Bradford Cox a guitar god?  Come on!   Sold out theater full of ecstatic fans during this Atlanta show?  Absolutely, and ditto the next night down the road in Athens at The Georgia Theater.

Deerhunter wrapped up its 2015 tour in support of their highly acclaimed ‘Fading Frontier’ (4AD) LP with a couple of knockout shows in North Georgia, where it all started for Bradford Cox in 2001 and a rotating cast of members over the years, tours, and records.  All on a steady if bumpy path to creative peaks and fame.

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Deerhunter since 2012 is L-R Cox, Moses Archuleta (drums), Josh McKay (bass) and Locket Pundt (guitar, keys, & vocals).

I’m a fairly recent convert to the band’s music but have been devouring their vinyl as fast as I can find it, and was glad to finally see them live.  They do not disappoint.  I would have guessed they might close with the strong hypnotic rocker “Desire Lines”;  but no, they opened with that piece of magic, and laid into one great song after another from their vast catalogue, the crowd loving every minute.  Bradford announced his parents and his dog were in the hometown crowd, trying in vain to get the latter to come up and take a bow.

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Fading Frontier’ made many critics best of 2015 lists, including Pitchfork, Paste, Buzzfeed, Vogue, and SPIN.

So far the only show scheduled for 2016 is Coachella.  But I am told there could be more shows scheduled so follow these guys on Facebook (close to 170,000 fans there) or

Setlists for their 2015 dates starting with this Atlanta show are here:

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A WISE GUY, ER, MAN: Andy Shernoff

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The erstwhile Dictators member on rock and religion, on Christian fundamentalists and his fellow Jews, on streaming music and his old band — and that little matter of how his fans out there in the hinterlands REALLY spell his name…


To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, forgotten New York rockers of the 1970s and 1980s – and even earlier – keep rising like “saviors from these streets” to reclaim their legacies.

In recent years, we’ve seen the return of Garland Jeffreys, Willie Nile and – as an author, especially – Richard Hell. This year, a name that has been turning up often is Andy Shernoff. He was a founding member, original lead singer, songwriter and bassist for the Dictators, a satirical and smartass post-modern garage/neo-punk New York band.

Its 1975 debut album for Epic Records, The Dictators Go Girl Crazy, keeps growing in esteem for songs like “The Next Big Thing,” “Two Tub Man,’ “Weekend,” “(I Live for) Cars and Girls” and a rocking cover of “California Sun.” The band, amid lineup changes and a move to a more conventional hard-rock sound, has kept going, off and on, but Go Girl Crazy remains their crucial work.

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Last year, Australia-based Raven Records released Faster…Louder: The Dictators’ Best 1975-2001 to refresh us with the band’s work. This year, for Black Friday, the discerning Real Gone Music label issued – on opaque red vinyl – the limited-edition The Dictators: The Next Big Thing EP – Andrew W.K. Remixes & Studio Outtakes, which features reimagined versions of three Go Girl Crazy songs, plus one unreleased track (“Backseat Boogie”) and outtakes of two others.

Then, earlier this month, in a project supervised by Sony Music producer Tim Smith, Real Gone Music put out the 40th Anniversary Remastered & Expanded Edition of Go Girl Crazy on CD, with nine bonus tracks (including the two outtakes on the Black Friday EP). Shernoff has provided liner notes.


Meanwhile, a current version of the band that does not include Shernoff but does have original members Handsome Dick Manitoba and Ross (“The Boss”) Friedman – Dictators NYC – has just released a new single, “Supply and Demand”/Kick Out the Jams” – that has received heavy airplay on Sirius’ Underground Garage channel. (Manitoba has been a deejay on that channel.)

Shernoff, himself, isn’t doing shows at the moment – he lives in upstate New York, rather than the city. But he’s been busy, nonetheless. He was a guest performer at this year’s Joey Ramone Birthday Bash in New York, a testament to their friendship (and Shernoff’s influence on the Ramones). He and Lydia Lunch recorded a darkly funny video single this year, “A Good Night to Say Goodbye.” And he has on YouTube a new single, a tribute to the glories of vinyl records called “Streaming.” It’s a take-of of Blondie’s “Dreaming” and features Tricia Scotti on vocals. He also produced a record by a Boston band, the Connection.

But what he’s also been doing in recent years has been, to paraphrase R.E.M., a form of losing his religion. And he has put his feelings about that out there quite courageously, while retaining his humor.

In 2013, he produced and recorded a four-song EP for his Yazoo Squelch Audio Society, On the First Day, Man Created God, that is a scabrous and ribald critique of fundamentalist Christianity. It followed his 2012 single, “Fuck Christmas” and a more secular-oriented EP, Don’t Fade Away.

Man Created God is not gentle. It has one song, “Are You Ready to Rapture,” with lyrics like “The sky’s falling/As a light shines through/Guess who’s back?/It’s the zombie Jew/He’s really pissed/At the unmarried fornicators/the stem-cell crusaders/and the butthole invaders”). And another is the blatantly double-entendre party tune “Get On Your Knees for Jesus (here he comes),”

(The two other songs on Man Created God are “Skeptical” and “Fisher of Men.” All tunes but “Rapture” were recorded in Springfield, Mo. with Lou Whitney and members of the Skeletons. (Whitney passed away in 2014.)

Granted, some of Shernoff’s compositions for Go Girl Crazy, like “Master Race Rock” and “Back to Africa,” pushed impertinence to the point of offensiveness, but there was a certain amount of distancing and posing going on. In “The Next Big Thing,” the band even sang “I knocked them dead in Dallas/they didn’t know we were Jews.”

But Shernoff is serious about his religious skepticism – even if he expresses it with his trademark sass. He has performed at the 2012 Reason Rally in Washington, a gathering for secularists that also featured Bill Maher, author Richard Dawkins and Bad Religion. Shernoff also toured – with a jaundiced eye – the fundamentalist Creation Museum in Kentucky.

“I wasn’t from a religious family,” he said during a phone interview (before the Paris terrorist attacks) from his New York home. “When I was a kid, I remember praying to God and never getting an answer.

“I didn’t care what other people did – if you want to go to church and it makes you happy, I didn’t really care. But 9/11 really turned me around,” he continued. “I saw what faith could do, how dangerous it was and what you could do in the name of God. Then I started looking around America and heard about the rapture. And I started reading about it.”

(The rapture, a belief of Christian fundamentalists, holds that Jesus’ second coming will be accompanied by true believers rising up to heaven along with the resurrected faithful who have died, presumably as all others on earth meet an apocalyptic end. Thus, some rapture believers feel the end of the world is inevitable and problems like global warming should not be resisted.)

“My problem with religion is how it holds political beliefs now,” Shernoff said. “If you have faith, it allows you to have belief without proof. It allows you to believe climate change is a hoax, or the President was born in Kenya.

“I was raised Jewish and I’m proud of my heritage,” Shernoff explained. “In New York, it’s more of an ethnicity. When my parents died and left some money, I contributed to a synagogue. I don’t want Judaism to die out. Judaism to me is like being black or Spanish. It’s an ethnic heritage. But have you read the Old Testament? It has a very vengeful God. There’s some pretty horrible stuff is going on.”

Shernoff said “Get on Your Knees,” whose fundamental joke is like something off a smutty Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts album from the 1960s, has a serious intent behind the mockery. “That is my ultimate wise-guy song,” he acknowledged. “And I use that (sexual innuendo) as part of the joke. But the song itself really is about Original Sin. I think that’s a dangerous concept to tell children – that they’re born evil and broken. I mock that in my inimical fashion.”

When the Dictators released Go Girl Crazy in 1975, it was also pushing the edge, Shernoff said. “The band at that time were wise guys with our sense of humor, our attitude about the world, and how we thought rock ‘n’ roll was not just music but was also about getting drunk, girls, hamburgers, drugs and having a good time. It was an accurate view of our attitude of the world and music 1974.

“When I was writing that first album, I was listening to Nuggets a lot.” (That influential two-disc album, released in 1972, featured 1960s garage-rock songs assembled by Lenny Kaye.) “Rock ‘n’ roll was taking itself very seriously in the early 1970s,” Shernoff says. There were bands with laser-light shows. It had to come back to three-minute songs. The Ramones really changed that world, but we did our little part in bringing rock ‘n’ roll back to a fun, high-energy, rebellious sound.”

The group at the time of the first album also featured – in addition to Shernoff, Manitoba and Friedman – Scott “Top Ten” Kempner on guitar and Stu Boy King as drummer. Shernoff’s first name was spelled on the album as “Adny.” He laughs about that now. “I was a wise guy to make people think there was a typo, and maybe it was a way to get a little attention. It was childish of me and I don’t use it now. But that’s cool.”

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In the decades since Go Girl Crazy, before the recent upswing in interest, Shernoff kept busy with various projects. “When the world didn’t care about the Dictators, I was doing moving jobs and whatever offers I could dig up,” he said. “I started producing records and made a living. Then my parents got ill and I took care of them. Then I had some time. I had songs and made my way back to writing and having records.” (He also got involved in the wine business, working for several years with sommelier Jean-Luc Le Du’s Le Du’s Wines shop in New York.)

In 2012, he toured the East Coast with a show called When Giants Walked the Earth, where he prefaced his songs with stories about his career and people he knew, such as Joey Ramone. “Doing that was a way to get me back on stage,” he said. “I had never been a solo performer, so how do I do it? So I came up with that idea and it worked pretty well for me. But now I’ve got a lot more songs and I want people to hear new stuff.

“I love the craft of writing songs and I hope people enjoy them. Music is a blessing. I know that’s a religious term, but it also can refer to something else. I mean that in the secular sense.”

(For more Shernoff, check out Hint: don’t miss the “Andy’s R&R Museum” section of the website.)





15 QUESTIONS FOR… James Tritten of Fort Lowell Records

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And… here’s the fourth installment in the BLURT series in which we profile cool independent record labels. What are the criteria for inclusion in the “cool” category? Hey, ’cos we say they are cool, that’s what! We’re making the rules around here, kids. Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment, coming soon, and meanwhile, go HERE for entry #1 (Slumberland Records), HERE for #2 (12XU), HERE for #3 (Saint Marie), and HERE for #4 (Trouble In Mind). Coming soon: Chunklet. [Pictured above: James Tritten and Tracy Shedd, presumably in earlier days…]


As the editor of this fine publication and website, I am frequently surprised and delighted by the gems — obviously gleaming and in the rough — that my crew of contributors unearth for us. Longtime writer Tim Hinely, also a blogger for us, has frequently been the source of such riches, and his ongoing “15 Questions For…” indie label feature has yielded more than its share. Around the time he launched the series I met James Tritten of the Fort Lowell Records label; James and his wife, musician Tracy Shedd, had recently moved from Tucson, Arizona, to Raleigh, North Carolina, where, coincidentally, I was living and working (in addition to doing BLURT) at indie record store Schoolkids Records. We hit it off — not the least of reasons being that I had lived for 10 years in Tucson myself during the ‘90s and we had a number of friends and plenty of landmarks in common — and I always looked forward to our in-depth music conferences whenever he and Tracy would drop by the store to put Fort Lowell items in the bins or just yak about stuff.

(As an aside: My abiding love and respect for indie labels runs deep, as I’ve been writing about their bands and their releases pretty much all of my adult life, at least since the late ‘70s when I was doing my own series of indie rock magazines. I also used to contribute to Magnet magazine’s monthly feature in which an indie label was profiled via a template of more-or-less stock questions that served to get the word out about the label and also to give the readers and consumers a sense of who was actually working behind the scenes to get the label up and running — and of course ongoing. That, then, has gone into what Tim Hinely and I are trying to accomplish with our own series here at BLURT.)

Ergo, this “15 Questions For…” James and Fort Lowell. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve dug, literally, every piece of wax he’s put in my hands. How do I count the ways? From our feature on Saint Maybe, erstwhile Patti Smith Group Oliver Ray’s project, as well as the feature on Tracy Shedd, to reviews of moyamoya (glom onto that sweet colored wax!) and La Cerca and the Good Graces, that’s how. Among many. A couple of ’em also landed on my Top Albums of 2015 list, recently published here at BLURT as part of our 2015 best-of roundup. Yeah, you might say I’m biased. But that’s what love is, ya know?

I’m also pretty damn chuffed about his and Tracy’s new collaboration, Band & The Beat (they’ll be touring in January; dates started in Charlotte on Jan. 9 HERE or after the main text), so in a final flourish of pure unbridled subjectivity, I’d like to kick off the feature with their new single. Enjoy…

BLURT: When did the label form / what was your original inspiration?

JAMES: It was November 2009 in Tucson, AZ, when the idea popped in my head to start up a record label.  I was home sick with a Man Cold, sleeping on the couch next to our record collection.  The 7inches caught my attention, and I took a sharp turn onto Memory Lane, listening to all of the old singles from my youth of growing up on the East Coast; bands like Common Threat, Greensect, Gizzard, The Raymond Brake, Mercury Birds, #1 Family Mover, Jennyanykind, etc.

Back in the ’90s, everyone released 7inch singles because it was cheap and easy, and it’s just what you did.  You’d swap them with other bands on the road like business cards.  I remember it costing close to about $1.50 a record to produce, and most of us just recorded the music in our homes.  Black and white photocopied covers usually manufactured at your place of employment without your boss knowing; the whole project was very low-fi, and those records are some of my favorite to date.

When my wife Tracy Tritten, otherwise known as singer-songwriter Tracy Shedd (who has released albums with Teen-Beat, Devil In The Woods, Eskimo Kiss Records, and New Granada Records), and I moved to Tucson in 2006, we noticed that not many of the younger local bands were releasing their music on vinyl.  Usually they would have a CD-R at best, but most would just tell you to download their music… for free, off of their website.  (Music for free?)

It’s not to say no one in Tucson was releasing vinyl.  Golden Boots was probably putting out some of the best packaged records, along with Naïm Amor.  And yes, of course, Howe Gelb, Giant Sand, and Calexico releases were coming out on vinyl.  But the kids, the new bands in town, playing at The Red Room (RIP) or The HangArt were not quite there yet (the whole indie / punk tape craze hadn’t even happened yet).

At that same time, I was coming up on a year anniversary for me driving a Vespa scooter to and from work each day.  I had bought a 1976 CJ-5 Jeep with 35″ tires and a 4″ lift a few years earlier when we first moved to Tucson (featured here in Tracy Shedd’s video for “Whatever It Takes”).  It was a real “Rock Crawler”: something to do for fun on the weekends.  However, with only about 8-miles to the gallon for gas usage, driving that beast to work every day was not the most economically sound choice, so I bought a scooter to handle that daily trek and save some money.

One day as I passed the Jeep that had been parked, unused, for countless weeks, I had a vision of selling the Jeep and putting the money to better use: starting up a record label.  I remember standing next to that Jeep and calling Zach Toporek from Young Mothers to pitch the idea of releasing his band as our first record.  He said yes, and the Jeep went on the market immediately.  The rest is history, as they say.

Who designed your logo? Do you only have one?

The only Fort Lowell Records logo is actually a silhouette of the statue that stands in Fort Lowell Park in Tucson AZ.  Fort Lowell was the neighborhood that I lived in while in Tucson, so for me (personally) it made sense to call the record label Fort Lowell Records, to mark that time in my life.  I also knew that there was only one Fort Lowell in the world, in Tucson, and I wanted something the city itself could own: a record label that was obviously tied to Tucson (and I believe Cactus Records was already taken).

I felt the label’s logo had to represent the area of town, and there is nothing more iconic that the statue that stands on Craycroft Road.  So, I walked outside my house down to the park and snapped a picture of the statue.  Then, got onto Photoshop to make it what it is.

It also reminded me of Vanguard Records’ logo, and I am huge fan of Vanguard.  Not sure if anyone else knows this, but the band Stereolab actually got a lot of their artistic design for their earlier releases from old Vanguard records.  In fact, I am pretty sure that name itself was a term Vanguard used, much like RCA Records’ “Living Stereo” series.

Fort Lowell logo

What was your first release?

It was a 7-inch record for Young Mothers, for a song called “Come On, The Cross.”  The B-side features what is still quite possibly my personal favorite song that Fort Lowell Records has released: a track called “Good Sword.”  I’ll drop the needle on “Good Sword” from time to time, and I swear life just stands still, it is so captivating.  Have you ever heard a song like that; one that just takes over everything within you and around you?  Zach Toporek nailed it with that song.  He’s even got some twelve-part harmony in there; it’s breathtaking.

I knew Young Mothers were going to be our first release from the first time I saw them.  Tracy Shedd (who I play guitar with) was booked with Young Mothers at The Living Room in Tucson.  Zach did not know us, and we had never met him.  Within the first few strums of his guitar and belts of his huge live vocals, we were hooked.  At the time, the music reminded us of our old friends from Austin TX, Silver Scooter; just good old American indie-pop (pure and fun).

The music made me get up and dance.  At that moment, they were the best band in the world to me.  So when the idea of Fort Lowell Records came about, I knew exactly who I wanted to call first.  I think that is how it should be for a label owner: you should be that ‘freak fan’ that just can’t get enough of the band you are releasing.  And that’s what a band should want from their label: an overabundance of enthusiastic support.

Were there any label(s) that inspired you to want to release records?

Sarah Records, Teen-Beat, Pop-Narcotic, Decoder Ring Records, Magic Eye Singles, as well as the band from Boston – Charlene – and their self-released singles on their own label, SharkAttack!.  At the time, it was all about the 7inches, and these labels had it down, especially Sarah Records.  Studying their releases really helped me be creative with presenting a professional design for each record, but keeping costs down and staying under or within budget.  I spent months researching various options and ideas, yet insuring that quality was never compromised. I’d like to think we were successful with this challenge; I’m very proud of the records we’ve released.

If there is one band, current or present, you could release a record by who would it be?

 Two bands… Schooner and Gross Ghost; both bands from North Carolina.  We’ve been fans of each band before ever moving here; we have actually played shows with Schooner in the past when touring through North Carolina. In fact, when we did a show at Slim’s Downtown with Schooner back in 2011, we made a promise to them that if we moved to North Carolina, we’d release a record for them.  The delay is totally my own fault, and I am hoping someday to live up to that promise. [Count the BLURT braintrust among the fans of those two bands, James! –Tarheel Ed.]

Both bands are simply amazing and very much underappreciated; more people need to know about these guys.  Their music is pure, honest, and simply great.   The songwriting is there, the live performance is there.  I would love to have an opportunity to record a record with each of them, and welcome them to the Fort Lowell Records family.

What has been your best seller to date?

Hands down, Howe Gelb’s 7-inch record that was part of Record Store Day 2011.  It was actually a split release between two of his own projects: ‘Sno Angel, which features a choir from Canada, and Melted Wires, which is a jazz quartet made up of members from Giant Sand and Calexico.  Neither track on the 7inch had been released on vinyl before, and they are both simply stunning. “Spiral” is the ‘Sno Angel track, while “Cordoba In Slow Motion” – the Melted Wires song – really showcases Gelb’s Thelonious Monk influence. We technically sold out of the record in three weeks, but then about a year later we had some returns from our distributor.  I was actually very thankful to have a few records sent back to us, since there were so many people that missed out on it the first time.  Now I’ve seen that record go for up to $40.00 on eBay, which I find somewhat flattering (in a weird way).   I’ve bought my fair share of over-priced hard-to-find records on eBay, just because I had to have it.

Honorable mentions for best-selling records go to Young Mothers….music video?, our split between Wet & Reckless and Tracy Shedd, and the Luz de Vida Compilation, all of which have also sold out (from our inventory) over time.  (That reminds me, I need to update our website and take some of those down.)

Who is the most famous artist on your label, and why do you think that is?

With the exception of Howe Gelb, which is the obvious answer, there are three artists that share the limelight:

Tracy Shedd has had a lucrative career all on her own, without any influence from Fort Lowell Records. Tracy has a number of albums out with Teen-Beat, as well as a few individual releases with Devil In The Woods, Eskimo Kiss Records, and most recently New Granada Records.  She has been featured on TV shows such as Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill, as well as had her music in one of Catherine Zeta-Jones’ movies.  Having Tracy as a part of the Fort Lowell Records’ roster has definitely helped with developing an audience for the label, which we are very thankful for.  Tracy is also sharing her latest project with Fort Lowell Records: a duo dream-pop / synth-pop project called Band & The Beat, and their debut release “21 [Digital 45]is Fort Lowell Records’ latest release.

Next would be La Cerca.  I learned about La Cerca back in 2001 when Tracy Shedd released her first track on a compilation from The Unlike Label which also featured La Cerca.  During the time I lived in Tucson, I would often go on record stating that Andrew Gardner from La Cerca was one of the most under-appreciated songwriters in Tucson. [Amen. –Old Pueblo Ed.] I was over the moon when the opportunity came up for Fort Lowell to release La Cerca’s latest album ‘Sunrise For Everyone.‘ [Go HERE to read the Blurt review of the album.] So the day Andrew called me to tell me that Xemu Records wanted to sign his band and re-release their album, I knew Andrew had finally receive the recognition that he deserved.  In no way was I upset; I was simply proud of Andrew, and extremely happy for La Cerca. Being picked up by another label to help grow your career, I feel, is a sign of success.  I would never want to hold anyone back from that.

Recently, the Good Graces experienced every band’s dream: having a national artist ask to take you on the road as their opening act, giving you exposure to thousands of people, and not mention an amazing experience altogether.  ‘Close to the Sun,’ the Good Graces’ latest album, just happened to get into the hands of The Indigo Girls, who fell in love with their music and asked the Good Graces to join them on the road for their summer tour.  The Good Graces had an awesome time, and gained a lot of attention from the opportunity.  Since the tour with The Indigo Girls, the Good Graces have been featured on Daytrotter, had a few live television appearances, and are now heading out for a West Coast Tour in 2016.  We are looking forward to share more of their successes in the coming years ahead. [Go HERE to read the Blurt review of the album.]

Are you a recording/touring musician yourself, and if so, do you use your label as an outlet for getting your stuff out to the public?

As stated before, my wife is Tracy Shedd, whom I have been playing guitar with since high school, so I was on her 7inch and Luz de Vida track with Fort Lowell Records.  I am also the other half to Tracy’s new duo project, Band & The Beat, which is the newest release for Fort Lowell.  Band & The Beat is meant to be a “husband / wife” project, while Tracy Shedd was specifically Tracy’s own songwriting.  With Band & The Beat, it is the very first time that I am playing keyboards / synthesizers.   We started the project back in June of this year, and I have been diligently learning the ivories ever since.  I would not object to partnering with another record label for future Band & The Beat projects, if it made sense.  We were simply so excited about Band & The Beat, and the first two recordings: “21” and “Buoy,” we just wanted to get the music out right away to the public.

Regarding social media, which have you used and what to you are the pros and cons of using it?

For social media, I have used it all.  From Friendster, to MySpace, to everything that people can’t live without today. It was four years ago when I stopped using Facebook and Instagram with Fort Lowell Records.  I decided I was going to only use Twitter to promote the record label.  Then, on January 1, 2015, I dropped Twitter as well (I stopped using it, but still have not deleted the account).  On the internet, Fort Lowell Records only exists as our website:  The website is a blogsite, because I like the format of it.  I post things on there, the same way others might do so with social media, and I’ve been much happier; much more focused on what is important.

Is the local music community supportive of the label?

Fort Lowell Records’ success has been the support of the local music communities (note: “communities” being plural).  Tucson is where Fort Lowell Records was born, but Tucson is not where we are personally from.  Tracy and I are from Jacksonville, FL, but now we are making roots in Raleigh, NC.  The local communities of all three areas have actually been extremely supportive of Fort Lowell Records.  Tucson will always be home to Fort Lowell Records, and that is what I would want for the label; that is why I gave it an indigenous name.  I want to continue to support artists from Tucson, and be involved as best as we can.  With the recent release of two bands from Jacksonville, moyamoya and Hey Mandible, the Bold New City of the South has embraced the label with open arms.  We recently hosted a label showcase with moyamoya, the Good Graces, Hey Mandible, and the debut of our new project Band & The Beat; the show was billed as Tracy Shedd, but we performed as Band & The Beat.  All of the record stores in the Triangle Area (as well as all over the state) of North Carolina have shown great supportof Fort Lowell Records with record sales.  Schoolkids Records in Raleigh NC has sold the most copies of La Cerca’s ‘Sunrise For Everyone.’  I think once we get into releasing more North Carolina bands, Band & The Beat  being the first, we will start hosting more live performance with label-mates in the region. [Below: La Cerca]

La Cerca

Have digital sales been significant or nominal?

I would have to report the digital sales have been a good continuous revenue stream for Fort Lowell Records.   We partner with both The Orchard as our main digital distributor, and we use our own Bandcamp page (which gives direct sales to Fort Lowell Records).  Having the digital outlets seems to work well for the out-of-print records too, or for fans overseas; giving people an economical choice.  I find having the digital option does not hurt us in any way, which is why I have always made it available.  Personally, I don’t buy my music to listen to digitally, but I do understand that there are customers that prefer this service, and I don’t feel we should limit our outlets when it honestly costs our label no extra money to have the digital option available.

For Band & The Beat [pictured below] the release is currently only available as a Digital 45 (or what I like to call a “Virtual 7inch”).  This decision was made simply because of the “speed to market”: the track “21” was written, recorded, mixed, mastered, and released all within the month of October (in less than four weeks’ time).  Band & The Beat was heading out on tour, and we wanted to have a release out for people to enjoy.  I can see doing more Digital 45s with Fort Lowell Records, especially to help bands in similar situations.

Tracy James by John McNicholas

What are your thoughts on the current vinyl resurgence?

I think it is a fantastic thing, although I am also one of those guys (there are a few of us) that find it hard to call a “resurgence;” I believe vinyl never went away.   But I get it; no, Barnes & Noble and Best Buy were not carrying vinyl records 5-10 years ago, and now they are, which, again, I think is great.  I’ve been buying music on vinyl ever since I was a kid, and I am happy that is so much easier to find vinyl records in almost any store; heck, Guitar Center is carrying them now.

It is a fact that this resurgence, or increase in demand, with vinyl has caused a shift with the manufacturing timeline of the records themselves. This is evolution at its finest; those who will survive will be those that can evolve.   You now see a lot of labels going from standard vinyl releases to limited lathe cut releases, simply because they can get a lathe cut record out faster.   Cassettes tapes are also receiving a lot of attention and support these days.  I attribute this to the longer production times (and increasing costs) for vinyl records; again, evolution.  A cassette tape can be manufactured and released much faster, and cheaper (overall).  And if the kids are buying it, and they have the tape decks or Walkman units to listen to the music, then evolution is a success, and this vinyl “resurgence” is driving creativity; survival of the fittest.   For Fort Lowell Records, you are seeing our very first digital-only release for Band & The Beat, as well a sign of the times.

Hey Mandible vinyl

What is your personal favorite format to release music? Thoughts on other formats?

I like releasing vinyl records, as well as making music available for radio airplay.  At our house, this is how we listen to music.  There is only a record player hooked up to an amplifier that has a built-in receiver.  If we are not listening to an album on wax, we are tuning in the airwaves.   We are extremely lucky to live in Raleigh, as Raleigh has what I feel is the best “Indie Rock” radio station in the country: WKNC 88.1FM.    Now, let me add, I believe KXCI 91.3FM in Tucson is the best “overall” radio station in America; they are a publicly supported radio station, as opposed to one that is part of a school, college, or university.  KXCI is very diverse, and open and supportive to all aspects of their community; KXCI is a major part of the spirit of Tucson AZ.   But when it comes to my own personal taste in music, WKNC here in Raleigh, hands-down, spins some of the best new, fresh, solid Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Dream Pop, etc., as well as Hip-Hop, I have ever heard.  Every one of my favorite new bands has come from listening to WKNC via the airwaves.  I am always happy letting the needle rest and dialing into 88.1FM.

So, when I am not listening to WKNC for new music, I am enjoying music on my turntable; there is nothing else like it.  That is my favorite format to use when releasing new music.  I’ve been collecting records ever since I was turned onto Echo & The Bunnymen in 6th grade.  But it wasn’t until purchasing Stereolab’s “Ping Pong” 7inch back in the early ‘90s that I actually understood the difference.  I had already owned their ‘Mars Audiac Quintet’ album on CD at the time, and the 7inch was given to me as a promo.  When I got home and heard the single, I noticed that there were elements of the music that I did not recognize with the CD version.  I turned around, went back to Now Hear This (record store in Jacksonville, FL; RIP) and bought every Stereolab album on vinyl, and have been purchasing all music on vinyl ever since.

I’ve succumbed to the convenience of MP3s.  With Fort Lowell Records, we do offer a digital download with all of the vinyl records, and as a customer, I too enjoying having this added benefit.  I keep my latest favorite albums on my phone, and plug in where ever I am, without having to carry around a CD or cassette case filled with albums.  I get it; it is much easier to take MP3s with you than CDs or cassettes.   Because of this, I’ve dropped all CDs and Cassettes for my personal collection.  I do understand that there are customers that still purchase these formats, so I can’t say Fort Lowell Records will never release either.   But I have stuck to vinyl and digital formats, along with getting music on the radio, for Fort Lowell Records simply because that is how I personally listen to music.

What new(er) labels these days have captured your attention?

I’ve been a big fan of People In A Position To Know (PIAPTK), Captured Tracks, Burger Records, and Trouble In Mind (TIM).   I love everything that all of these labels are doing.   PIAPTK has been releasing limited edition lathe cut records before anyone even knew how to pronounce the word “lathe.”  Their releases are some of the most innovative records cut; I promise you Jack White’s Third Man Records has been taking cues from PIAPTK for years.  Captured Tracks simply can’t go wrong with whatever band / artist they release; their taste in music is impeccable.  Burger Records is changing the game for everyone, and I love it; they are at the forefront of this evolutionary change that we are all witnessing, and they will be the first to survive.  I always admired Trouble In Mind’s direct approach, especially when they first launched their label.  TIM would drop a stack of new releases (7inches) for various amazing new unheard-of bands, with no artwork, just TIM’s standard low-fi produced label sleeve ,and each record would blow your mind.  Out of nowhere, “BAM!,” TIM was on the scene, killing it.   All four of these record labels continue to force feed the world with some of the greatest new music and freshest ideas available.

Do you accept unsolicited demos? 


[Pictured below: Fort Lowell LP by Tucson’s Saint Maybe, featuring Winston Watson and ex-Patti Smith Group guitarist Oliver Ray. The band was profiled at BLURT in 2013.]

Saint Maybe sleeve


Fort Lowell Records Website

Social Media: none



Band and the Beat tourdates:
JAN 17 – Neptune’s Parlour – Raleigh, NC – w/ T0W3RS, Slang, Hotline
JAN 27 – Schoolkid’s Records – Raleigh, NC – w/ moyamoya (ALL AGES)
JAN 28 – Slim’s Downtown – Raleigh, NC – w/ FKB$, moyamoya
JAN 29 – Nightlight – Chapel Hill, NC – w/ Midnight Plus One, moyamoya
JAN 30 – Norfolk Taphouse – Norfolk, VA – w/ Quincy Mumford & the Reason Why
JAN 31 – Galaxy Hut – Arlington, VA – w/ DKvDK
FEB 1 – The Golden Pony – Harrisonburg, VA – w/ Cool Ghost, Humanzee
FEB 2 – Motorco – Durham, NC – w/ Adrien Reju, Elijah Wolf
FEB 19 – The Cave – Chapel Hill, NC – w/ An Occassion For Balloons, TLVS
FEB 20 – Speakertree Records – Lynchburg, VA – w/ TLVS
FEB 21 – Strange Matter – Richmond, VA – w/ Anousheh, Dazeases
MAR 2 – Tin Roof – Charleston, SC – w/ infinitikiss, Sweatlands
MAR 3 – The Erasery – Savannah, GA
MAR 4 – 1904 – Jacksonville, FL – w/ moyamoya*, Tambor
MAR 5 – 529 – Atlanta, GA – w/ Chelsea Shag, Big Brutus
MAR 6 – New Brookland – Columbia, SC – w/ infinitikiss, Grace Joyner

REVENGE OF THE WRITERS: Blurt’s Best and Worst of 2015

Courtney Barnett

REVENGE OF THE WRITERS: Blurt’s Best and Worst of 2015

 What stood out in the music world for 2015? The folks who work in the trenches here are gonna tell ya. Guarantee: all dialogue reported verbatim. Pictured above: the hands-down Artist Of the Year, Australia’s Courtney Barnett.


It’s like déjà vu all over again: For our 2015 year-end wrap-up we summarily yield the podium to the staffers and contributors who detail their personal picks for the year that just ended. The first section has the lists for the staff, while the second section has those submitted by some of the regular contributors. Note that if you want to contact any member of our staff, their contact emails can be found at our “Contact” page, and if you wish to reach out to any of the other contributors, send us an email at BlurtEditor(at)Gmail(dot)com and we will be happy to forward it along.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the site we have our annual “Farewell” covering some of the notable music world deaths of 2015, among them Native-American poet/activist John Trudell, Motorhead founder Lemmy, actor Leonard Nimoy, singer/songwriter Brianna Lea Pruett, jazz icon Allen Toussaint. Oh yeah, don’t forget Yogi Berra.


Also check out our 2012, 2013 and 2014 coverage:

2014 In Review: Blurt’s Top 100 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2014

Farewell: Music World Passings 2014

2013 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2013

Farewell: Music World Passings 2013

 2012 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2012

Farewell: Music World Passings of 2012


Below: Reissues/Archival Artist of the Year Scott Fagan (both then, and now)

Scott Fagan then now


BARBI MARTINEZ, Assistant Editor (Raleigh, NC)

2015 Albums

Sleater-Kinney — No Cities to Love (Sub Pop

Waxahatchee — Ivy Tripp (Merge)

Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)

Joanna Newsom – Divers (Drag City)

Meg Baird — Don’t Weigh Down the Light (Drag City)

Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg)

Tame Impala — Currents (Interscope)

Tim Foljahn — Fucking Love Songs (Kiam)

Protomartyr — Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)

Deerhunter – Fading Frontier (4AD)


Bob Dylan – The Cutting Edge 1965 – 1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 (Legacy)

Led Zeppelin – Coda (Atlantic)

Scott Fagan – South Atlantic Blues (Saint Cecilia Knows/Lil’ Fish Records)

Jawbox – Jawbox (DeSoto/Dischord)

The Clash – The Clash (RSD Black Friday Edition) (Epic/Legacy)

2015 Tracks/Singles

Motobunny – “Let’s Go Out”

Ryan Adams – “Bad Blood”



LEE ZIMMERMAN, Senior Editor/Twang Editor (Maryville, TN)

2015 Albums

  1. Don Henley — Cass County
  2. Dave Rawlings Machine — Nashville Obsolete
  3. The Lone Below — Then Came Morning
  4. Robert Forster — Songs to Play
  5. Corb Lund — Things That Can’t  Be Undone
  6. Salim Nourallah — Skeleton Closet
  7. Adam Levy — Naubinway
  8. Jeffrey Foulcault — Sermon on the Rocks
  9. Joe Ely — Panhandle Rambler
  10. Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell — The Traveling Kind


  1. Frank Sinatra — A Voice on AIr
  2. Bob Dylan — 1965-1966: The Cutting Edge
  3. Them — Complete Them
  4. Rolling Stones — Sticky Fingers
  5. Sly and the Family Stone — Live at the Fillmore East
  6. Grateful Dead — Fare Thee Well
  7. Go Betweens — G Stands for Decibels
  8. Led Zeppelin — Coda
  9. Robin Gibb — Saved by the Bell
  10. Van Morrison — His Band and Street Choir


  1. The Who
  2. Ben Rector
  3. Stevie Wonder
  4. Avett Brothers
  5. John McEuen 70th Birthday Celebration

DVDs/Blu Rays

  1. Glen Campbell — I’ll Be Me
  2. The Jam — About the Young Idea
  3. The Who — Live at Shea Stadium/Live in Hyde Park
  4. The Rolling Stones — Live in Tokyo
  5. Taste — What’s Going On: Live at the Isle of Wight

Top 5 Music Books

  1. Ray Wylie Hubbard — A Life… Well, Lived
  2. John Fogerty — Fortunate Son
  3. Dave Morrell — 1974: The Promotion Man in New York City
  4. Ronnie Wood — How Can It Be A Rock & Roll Diary
  5. Ringo Starr — Photograph


  1. The Martian
  2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  3. Ant-Man
  4. Jurassic World
  5. Spectre
  6. Love and Mercy

Best Record Label: Bloodshot… The little insurgent that could!

In Memoriam – Most Lamented Death: B.B. King… Long live the King!

Best New Artist: Dawn & Hawkes… simple, sublime and unassuming folk po

Worst New Artist: Don’t know. Won’t listen.

Dumbest Band Name: “The Weeknd” — really? Rappers have never been known for their clever handle, but this has to be the dumbest by far.

Sex Object of the Year: Lady GaGa singing the standards. That’s one classy Lady.

Asshole of the Year: The Donald perhaps?  Sadly, in a pitiful pack of presidential contenders from both parties, he’s also the most provocative. Sad, sad, sad.

Best Hair or Facial Hair: It was the Avett Brothers, until they shed their long locks. Todd Rungren’s bleach streaks still impress however and Avery’scool locks on Nashville also inspire.

2016 release I am most anticipating: David Bowie’s * – I won’t even try to decipher the title [It’s “Blackstar” –Discog. Ed.], but suffice it to say, anything new from rock’s most adventurous chameleon is always worth looking forward to. David – don’t disappoint! And let’s not forget the next studio set from the Avett Brothers… the disappointment factor there is generally nil.

Coolest trend or whatever: Vinyl? Maybe… and once I would have agreed. However I must confess that I’m totally tuned to CDs – less space, more compact and still the easiest to collect in terms of affordability and access. That despite the fact that the industry is doing its best to banish them entirely (see below). Methinks the exorbitant price of LPs may doom that trend to little more than a momentary fad.

Most Fucked Up or Annoying Trend of Whatever: Since I still feel the same way about this subject, I’m simply going to repeat what I said last year (and the years before that). — I sound like a broken record — pardon the pun — but once again I find myself railing against the continuing takeover of downloads and streams. Folks, I don’t care who you are… if you don’t cherish music in a physical form, then you are not benefitting from the entire experience. Music in amorphous form deprives us of the opportunity to hold it, marvel at it, linger on it as a piece of art, complete with all the visual manifestations of a well-done cover, the intricate liner notes about who did what and the sheer joy of being able to add it to the collection overall. Downloads and streams make music disposable, and beyond the momentary listening experience, makes it transient as well. Wake up people! Don’t let this art form fade away.

Wildcard: 50 Words From or About Me: At the age where a younger me might now refer to the current me as an old man, I feel both reborn and revitalized, free to express myself whatever way I please, without regard for whether my irreverence or wackiness might appear politically incorrect or sadly misconstrued. Living in Eastern Tennessee, a haven of great music (move overt Nashville, there’s plenty to relish on this side of the state!) the tunes still inspire me through times both good and bad, rekindling memories and making new ones along the way. Age is still just a number, as my ridiculously retro hairstyle will attest. Rock on, Mick, Keith, Pete, Roger, Bob and Sir Paul — you’re an inspiration to us all! Thanks for paving the way into the new age reality!

Favorite Blurt article I wrote: The black watch piece Creative Creativity where I finally had an opportunity to give this fantastic band the kudos they deserve. [Amen! –Literary Ed.]



JENNIFER KELLY, Senior Editor (Walpole, NH)

2015 Albums

  1. Meg Baird — Don’t Weigh Down the Light (Drag City)
  2. Protomartyr [pictured above] — The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)
  3. Jessica Pratt — On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)
  4. Richard Bishop — Tangier Sessions (Drag City)
  5. Zachary Cale — Duskland (Important)
  6. Frog Eyes — Pickpocket’s Locket (Paper Bag)
  7. Lightning Bolt — Fantasy Empire (Thrill Jockey)
  8. Ryley Walker — Primrose Green (Dead Oceans)
  9. Weather Station — Loyalty (Paradise of Bachelors)
  10. Destroyer — Poison Season (Merge)

Honorable Mention: Sleater-Kinney — No Cities to Love (Sub Pop) / Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop) / Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg) / The Fall — Sub-Lingual Tablet (Cherry Red) / Jon Spencer Blues Explosion — Freedom Tower (Mom + Pop) / The Cairo Gang — Goes Missing (Drag City) / Kelley Stoltz — Triangle Time (Castle Face) / Monk Parker — How the Spark Loves the Tinder (Bronze Rat) / The Mountain Goats — Beat the Champ (Merge) / Radioactivity — Silent Kill (Dirtnap) / Joanna Newsom — Divers (Drag City) / Richard Osbourn — Freehand (Self) / The Lloyd Pack — A Tribute (Amish) / Glenn Mercer — Incidental Hum (Bar/None)


Various Artists — Ork Records: New York — NY (Numero)

JPS Experience — I Like Rain: The Story of the John Paul Sartre Experience (Fire)

Pere Ubu — Elitism for the People 1975-1978 (Fire)

John Renbourn — The Attic Tapes (World Music Network)




FRED MILLS, Editor (Asheville, NC)

Top ??? 2015 Albums (aka a list in progress…. Hey, I’m the goddam editor!)

Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)

Sleater-Kinney — No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)

Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg/Interscope)

Peter Case — HWY 62 (Omnivore)

Grupo Fantasma — Problemas (Blue Corn Music)

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion — Freedom Tower (Mom + Pop)

Datura4 — Demon Blues (Alive Naturalsound)

Moon Duo — Shadow of the Sun (Sacred Bones)

Jason Isbell — Something More Than Free (Southeastern)

Michael Rank & Stag — Horsehair (Louds Hymn)

American Aquarium — Wolves (Last Chance)

Billy Sedlymayr — Charmed Life (Fell City)

6 String Drag — Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll (Royal Potato Family)

Phil Cook — Southland Mission (Thirty Tigers/Middle West)

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats — Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats (Stax)

Joanna Newsom — Divers (Drag City)

Don Howland — Life is a Nightmare (12XU)

Giant Sand — Heartbreak Pass (New West)

Daniel Martin Moore — Golden Age (OK Recordings/SofaBurn)

Wilco — StarWars (dBpm)

The Waterboys — Modern Blues (Kobalt)

The Good Graces — Close to the Sun (Fort Lowell)

Tommy Keene — Laugh in the Dark (Second Motion Records)

Gabriel Sullivan JVPITER (Fell City)

Jesse Malin — Outsiders (One Little Indian)

Des Ark — Everything Dies (Graveface)

Fuzz — II (In The Red)

Pokey LaFarge — Something In The Water (Rounder)

Mandolin Orange — Such Jubilee (Yep Roc)

Alabama Shakes — Sound & Color (ATO)

Oneohtrix Point Never — Garden of Delete (Warp)

Natalie Prass — Natalie Prass (Spacebomb)

Panda Bear — Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper (Domino)

Obnox — Boogalou Reed (12XU)

Moyamoya — moyamoya (Fort Lowell)

Nox Boys — Nox Boys (Get Hip)

Promised Land Sound — Promised Land Sound (Paradise of Bachelors)

Beaumonts — Get Ready For (Saustex)

Barrence Whitfield & the Savages – Under the Savage Sky (Bloodshot)

Donovan’s Brain — Heirloom Varieties (Career)

Earle, Steve — Terraplane (New West)

McMurtry, James — Complicated Game (self-released)

Minus 5 — Dungeon Golds (Yep Roc)

Pow Wows — Broken Curses (Get Hip)

Sonny Vincent — Bizarro Hymns (Get Hip)


Top ???? 2015 Reissues/Archival (ditto! –Ed.)

Bruce Springsteen – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection (Columbia)

Brother Dege [pictured above] — Scorched Earth Policy (Deluxe Edition) (Psyouthern Media)

Various Artists — Ork Records: New York, NY (Numero)

The Dictators – Go Girl Crazy (Real Gone/Epic)

Donny Hathaway — Live at the Bitter End 1971 LP (Atco/Rhino)

Scott Fagan, South Atlantic Blues (Saint Cecilia Knows/Lil’ Fish Records)

Neil Young – Bluenote Café (Warner Bros.)

Game Theory — Real Nighttime (Omnivore)

Sly and the Family Stone — Live at the Fillmore East (Legacy)

Faces – 1970-1975: You Can Make Me Dance, Sing Or Anything… (Rhino/Warner Bros.)

Shoes — Primal Vinyl (BOMP!/Alive Records)

The Dream Syndicate — The Days of Wine and Roses (Omnivore)

Alan Vega/Ben Vaughn/Alex Chilton — Cubist Blues (Light In The Attic)

Lizzy Mercier Descloux — Press Color (Light In The Attic)

Segal, Ty — Ty Rex (In The Red)

Harmonia — Complete Works (Groenland)


Worst Albums of 2015 (aka “the low hanging fruit”)

Adele — 25 (Columbia)

Coldplay — A Head Full of Dreams (Atlantic/Parlophone)

Carly Rae Jepsen — E*MO*TION (604/Schoolboy/Interscope)

Blur — The Magic Whip (Warner Bros.)

Action Bronson — Mr. Wonderful (Vice/Atlantic)


Top 15 2015 Music Books

Warren Zanes — Petty: The Biography (Henry Holt)

Wyndham Wallace — Lee, Myself & I (Jawbone Press)

Stephen Witt — How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century and the Patient Zero of Piracy (Viking Books)

Todd Mouton —Way Down In Louisiana: Clifton Chenier, Cajun, Zydeco and Swamp Pop Musi (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press)

Harvey Kubernik — Neil Young: Heart of Gold (Backbeat)

Michael Goldberg — True Love Scars (Neumu)

Bruce Pavitt – Sub Pop USA: The Subterranean Pop Music Anthology, 1980-1988 (Bazillion Points)

Carrie Brownstein – Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl (Riverhead Books)

Kim Gordon – Girl In A Band (Day Street Books)

Kent Crowley — Long Promised Road: Carl Wilson, Soul of the Beach Boys – The Biography (Jawbone Press)

David Stubbs — Future Days: Krautrock and the Birth of a Revolutionary New Music (Melville House)

Mark StenAll Ages: The Rise and Fall of Portland Punk Rock 1977-1981 (Reptilicus Press)

Richard Dudanski — Squat City Rocks (self-published)

Alli Marshall — How to Talk to Rockstars (Logosophia)

Pamela Windo — Him Through Me: Making Love and Music in the Sixties & Seventies (self-published)

Ben Snakepit — Snakepit Gets Old: Daily Diary Comics 2010-2012 (Microcosm Publishing)


2015 Tracks/Singles

Joanna Newsom — “Divers” (Drag City)

The Go! Team — “The Scene Between” (Memphis Industries)

Best New Artist

Courtney Barnett

Most Wildly Overrated Artists
Julia Holter

Father John Misty

FKA Twigs

Best Live Show I Saw in 2015: The Who at PNC Arena, Raleigh NC, April 21, 2015

Top 4 Music DVDS of 2015

The Decline of Western Civilization Collection — Penelope Speeris, dir. (Shout! Factory)

The Jam: About The Young Idea —Bob Smeaton, dir. (Eagle Vision)

Scarred But Smarter: LifeN Times of Drivin N Cryin — Eric Von Haessler, dir. (Shanzing Films)

Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me — James Keach, dir. (Virgil Films)

Favorite Films: Spotlight; Love and Mercy; Sicario; Me, Earl and the Dying Girl;

Best Record Label: (tie) Light In The Attic / Omnivore

Best Music Website: (tie) The Quietus / Perfect Sound Forever

In Memoriam: Most Lamented Death: John Trudell

Best Album Sleeve Art or Packaging: The Sonics —50 box set (Etiquette)

Best Colored Vinyl Release: The Modern Lovers —The Modern Lovers (reissue – split black and blue vinyl; Newbury Comics)

Hero of the Year: Stephen Curry

Asshole of the Year: ISIS

Fave Internet Meme of 2015: Steve Harvey Miss Universe

Best Hair or Facial Hair: Billy Gibbons (as always)

Sweetest Buns: the two women in Motobunny

Nicest Package: BJ Barham, American Aquarium

Coolest Trend or Whatever: Vinyl continues to be on an upswing (with turntables being one of the number one sellers during Christmas at Amazon as well)

Most Fucked-up or Annoying Trend: (tie) the major labels doing their best to kill vinyl by flooding the market with ridiculously high-priced releases even as they keep raising the list prices on prior releases; Bob Lefsetz continuing to go on and on and on about there not being an actual vinyl revival and folks claiming as such are clueless and helplessly mired in the past.

Wildcard: 50 Words (or less) From or About Me That You Won’t Read on LinkedIn: I edit BLURT for no financial compensation (my day job is editing a non-music magazine) but still love doing it because, hey, it’s rock and roll! Meanwhile, along with my teenage son I am absolutely nuts about major league baseball and college basketball; ironically it took having a son to rekindle those mutual loves from my own teenage days when I played both sports.

Favorite story or review I wrote for Blurt: “A Big Footprint: The Flamin’ Groovies”


2015 Records I Wish Blurt Could Have Covered ( we didn’t receive review copies) That We Still Consider to be Part of our Top 100 This Year: Calexico — Edge of the Sun (Anti-); Jenny Hval — Apocalypse, girl (Sacred Bones); Torres — Sprinter (Partisan); The Velvet Underground — Live At The Matrix (UMe); Kurt Vile — b’lieve i’m goin down… (Matador); Sufjan Stevens — Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty); Grimes — Art Angels (4AD); Dam-Funk — Invite The Light (Stones Throw); Deerhunter — Fading Frontier (4AD); Neon Indian — VEGA INTL. Night School (Transgressive/Mom & Pop)

Top 10 Indie Videos We Premiered in 2015 at BLURT

The Black Watch — “Sugar Plum Fairy

Emitt Rhodes — “Making Of If I Knew Then

Gabriel Sullivan — “Hollow Hunter

Grannies — “The Corner of Fuck and You

Stephaniesĭd —“Love Is the New Black

Jack The Radio — “Moonlight

Michael Rank & Stag — “Trails

Seth Glier — “Love Is A Language

Bette Stuy — “Black Dog Blues”

Bruce Sudano — “Bad Girls


Top 10 Tracks We Premiered in 2015 at BLURT

6 String Drag — “I Miss the Drive In

A.J. Croce — “If You Want Me To Stay” (Sly Stone cover)

Johnette Napolitano — “Jazz On Vinyl

Game Theory — “One More for Saint Michael

Tommy Keene — “Last of the Twilight Girls”

The Old Ceremony —“Magic Hour

Stephen Kellogg — “Almost Woke You Up

Bloodhounds — “La Coauhuila

Holly Golightly — “Seven Wonders

Drivin’ N Cryin’ — “Hot Wheels




MICHAEL TOLAND, Senior Editor/Blogger (Austin, TX)

2015 Albums

  1. The Church – Further Deeper (Unorthodox)
  2. Ghost – Meloria (Rise Above/Loma Vista)
  3. Ryley Walker – Primrose Green (Dead Oceans)
  4. Baroness – Purple (Abraxan Hymns)
  5. Tribulation – Children of the Night (Century Media)
  6. The Happen-Ins – Glamour Shots (Fuzz Recordings)
  7. Gary Clark Jr. – The Story of Sonny Boy Slim (Warner Bros.)
  8. Blind Idiot God – Before Ever After (Indivisible)
  9. Failure – The Heart is a Monster (self-released)
  10. Julia Hülsmann Quartet w/ Theo Bleckmann – A Clear Midnight: Kurt Weill in America (ECM)


  1. Jellyfish – Bellybutton, Spilt Milk (Omnivore)
  2. Little Richard – Directly From My Heart: The Best of the Specialty & Vee-Jay Years (Specialty)
  3. Dave Kusworth – Princess Thousand Beauty (Troubadour/Easy Action)
  4. Jawbox – s/t (DeSoto/Dischord)
  5. Epic Soundtracks – Rise Above (Troubadour/Easy Action)
  6. Game Theory – Real Nighttime (Omnivore)
  7. Rag Dolls – Such a Crime (Seventeen/Troubadour/Easy Action)
  8. Five Eight – Weirdo (Chicken Ranch)
  9. Nikki Sudden – Red Brocade (Troubadour/Rookwood/Easy Action)
  10. The Dream Syndicate – The Days of Wine and Roses (Omnivore)

2015 Concerts

  1. Tanya Tagaq, SXSW, Flamingo Cantina, Austin, TX, 3/19/15
  2. The ZZZ’s, Levitation, Austin, TX, 5/10/15
  3. Angelique Kidjo, Austin City Limits taping, Austin, TX, 10/17/15
  4. Tribulation, Mohawk, Austin, TX, 11/14/15
  5. The Happen-Ins, CD release show, Mohawk, Austin, TX, 3/6/15
  6. The Last Bandoleros, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, TX, 10/3/15
  7. Cassandra Wilson, Austin City Limits taping, Austin, TX, 4/28/15
  8. Baroness, Mohawk, Austin, TX, 12/6/15
  9. Ryley Walker, SXSW, Mohawk, Austin, TX, 3/17/15
  10. Strand of Oaks, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, TX, 10/4/15




STEVEN ROSEN, Contributing Editor (Cincinnati, OH)

 2015 Albums

  1. Kamasi Washington — The Epic (Brainfeeder)
  1. Joan Shelley — Over and Even (No Quarter)
  1. Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom & Pop Music)
  1. Dale Watson — Call Me Insane (Red House)
  1. Ryley Walker [pictured above] — Primrose Green (Dead Oceans)
  1. Daniel Martin Moore — Golden Age (OK Recordings/SofaBurn)
  1. William Basinki — Cascade (2062)
  1. Bob Dylan — Shadows in the Night (Columbia)
  1. Julia Holter — Have You in My Wilderness (Domino Recording Co.)
  1. Jason Isbell — Something More Than Free (Southeastern Records)

 Best Reissue: Scott Fagan, South Atlantic Blues (Saint Cecilia Knows/Lil’ Fish Records)

 Best Live Show: Watching Jens Lekman, shortly after the Paris Massacre — which many people have said they felt was an attack on live music and the happiness and sense of community it can provide — give a joyously hopeful and kind performance at Cincinnati’s Woodward Theater. Coming from Sweden and well-traveled in Europe, Paris may well have been on his mind though he never said anything. He had come to town partly to participate in an art project sponsored by Contemporary Arts Center in which people submitted short stories about their personal experiences to him to turn into songs. He did that and performed the results while they were in the audience. He also performed his own songs with a local youth orchestra called MYCincinnati, which probably had never experienced a rock crowd before — and both those aspiring musicians and Lekman were delighted. I think everyone left happy — experiences like this are one reason people go to concerts in the first place. Good to know they still exist.

Best Live Show — Runner-Up: Watching Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, working with an avant-garde jazz duo, channel both Yoko Ono and Exorcist-era Linda Blair as her “throat voice” and “lung voice” battled in a Screaming With the Stars showdown while her body sometimes flopped and dropped, crawled and rolled around the stage. A live concert should also be like this, dangerous — but dangerous because the music is so challenging you don’t know how to respond, not because concert halls are killing floors.

Hardest Song to Hear: I still haven’t heard the already mythic “16 Angels Dancing ‘Cross the Moon” by Chip Taylor and John Prine because the 10-inch vinyl it was released on sold out so fast on Black Friday and now it’s frightfully expensive.

Best Music Movie: Love and Mercy has its flaws, but Paul Dano sure channeled the Brian Wilson of the Pet Sounds/Smile era.

Best Music Exhibit in a Museum: Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats at Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville.


Moon Duo

JONATHAN LEVITT, Contributing Editor (Beijing China)

2015 Albums

  1. Jamie XX — In Colour (Young Turks)
  2. The White Birch — The Weight of Spring (Glitterhouse)
  3. Tame Impala — Currents (Interscope)
  4. Number Three Combo — Retrofitting (Slowburn Records)
  5. Moon Duo [pictured above]— Shadow of the Sun (Sacred Bones)
  6. White Manna — Pan (Cardinal Fuzz)
  7. Death and Vanilla — To Where The Wild Things Are (Fire Records)
  8. Side Effects Box Set — (Fruits De Mer Records)
  9. Sundarata — Language of the Stars (Slowburn Records)
  10. Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I just Sit (Mom & Pop)

Reissues/Archival Title of 2015: Amara Toure — 1973-1980 (Analog Africa)

Worst Album of 2015: Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe — I Declare Nothing (A Recordings)

Best Concert of 2015: Moon Duo @Yugong Yishan Beijing

Top Label of 2015: (tie) Fruits De Mer Records / Slowburn Records Tucson

Most Important topic I spouted endlessly about in 2015: BEIJING POLLUTION



JOHN SCHACHT, Contributing Editor (Charlotte, NC)

2015 Albums (aka twenty-five new releases that did lovely — filthy — rhythmic — noisy — gentle — sexy things to John Schacht’s willing ears in 2015)

  1. It Hugs Back — Dreamwave (Safe & Sound)
  2. The Cairo Gang — The Cairo Gang Goes Missing (God?)
  3. Ought — Sun Coming Down (Constellation)
  4. Mac McCaughan — Non-Believers (Merge)
  5. Protomartyr — Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)
  6. Cian Nugent — Night Fiction (Woodsist)
  7. Tim Foljahn — Fucking Love Songs (Kiam)
  8. Monk Parker — How the Spark Loves the Tinder (Bronze Rat)
  9. JKutchma & the Five-Fifths — Blue Highways (Last Chance)
  10. Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment — Surf (self-released)
  11. Parquet Courts — Monastic Living (Rough Trade)
  12. Dorthia Cottrell — Dorthia Cottrell (Forcefield)
  13. Dave Segeddy — Shrodego (Joyful Noise)
  14. La Luz — Weirdo Shrine (Hardly Art)
  15. Nap Eyes — Whine of the Mystic (Paradise of Bachelors)
  16. Waxahatchee — Ivy Tripp (Merge)
  17. Sleater-Kinney — No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)
  18. Shannon & the Clams — Gone by Dawn (Hardly Art)
  19. Torres — Sprinter (Partisan)
  20. Wilco — StarWars (dBpm)
  21. Eden Sela — Purgatory (Thin Wrist)
  22. Haiku Salut — Etch and Etch Deep (How Does It Feel to Be Loved?)
  23. Yo La Tengo — Stuff Like That There (Matador)
  24. The Waterboys — Modern Blues (Kobalt)
  25. Low — Ones & Sixes (Sub Pop)



R Headache

TIM HINELY, Contributing Editor/Blogger (Denver, CO)

 2015 Albums

royal headache- high  (what’s your rupture)

the chills- silver bullets (fire records)
expert alterations- you can’t always be liked (kanine)

jason isbell- something more than  free (ato)
salad boys- metalmania (trouble in mind)

linden- rest and be thankful (slumberland)

sweet talk- double perfect- (12xu)
sarah cracknell- red kite (cherry red)

club 8- pleasure (labrador)

the spook school- try to be hopeful (fortuna pop)
knife pleats- hat bark beach (jigsaw/ lost sound tapes)

la luz- weirdo shrine (hardly art)
the fireworks- switch me on  (shelflife)

primitive parts- parts primitive (trouble in mind)

twerps- range anxiety (merge)

car seat headrest- teens of style (matador)

eztv- calling out (captured tracks)

helen- the origjnal faces (kranky)
don howland- life is a nightmare (12xu)

the monochrome set- expert alterations (tapete)

Honorable Mentions: I also liked records by: the apartments, deaf wish , belle and sebastian, rocket from the tombs, co-pilgrim, wreckless eric, dick diver, pugwash, hierophants, sports, static daydream, obnox, best coast, postal blue, strawberry whiplash, fred thomas, joanna, gruesome, julia holter, the mantles, gospelbeach, the legends, robert forster, hugelarge, the school, bunnygrunt, ultimate painting, roman a clef, xetas, uniform, nots, the rightovers, seapony,  giant sand, the jet age,  sufjan stevens, the sonics, jason james, dot dash, the zoltars, the blind shake, orange peels, the orchids, coastal, and probably several others that I’m forgetting about.


g stands for go-betweens: volume 1 (domino)

leatherface- razorblades and aspirin 1990-1993 (fire records)
half japanese- volume three- 1990-1995 (fire records)

the dictators- go girl crazy (real gone music)

velvet underground- loaded
denny lile- hear the bang
robin gibb- save by the bell (reprise)

sun city girls- torch of the mystics (abduction)

v/a- all about the girls (Croydon/cherry red )
dusty springfield- come for a dream  (real gone music)
the muffs- s/t (omnivore)
dusty springfield- faithful (real gone music)

del shannon- the further adventures of charles westover (trouble in mind)



DANIEL MATTI, Contributing Editor/Beer Ed. (Raleigh, NC)

2015 Films

  1. Mad Max Fury Road
  2. Spotlight
  3. The End of the Tour
  4. Love and Mercy
  5. Amy
  6. Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens
    1. Sicario
    2. Ex Machina
    3. Love
    4. While We’re Young
    5. Bone Tomahawk
    6. Youth
    7. Me Earl and the Dying Girl
    8. Ant Man
    9. The Wrecking Crew

Top 15 Albums of 2015

  1. The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Harmelessness
  2. Glen Hansard – Didn’t He Ramble
  3. Wildhoney – Sleep Through It
  4. Kamasi Washington – The Epic
  5. Future – DS2
  6. Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls
  7. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style
  8. Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter Three : River Run Thee
  9. Faith No More – Sol Invictus
  10. Cloudrat – Qliphoth
  11. Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
  12. Gucci Mane – 1017 Mafia: Incarcerated
  13. Oneohtrix Point Never – Garden of Delete
  14. Freddie Gibbs – Shadow of a Doubt
  15. Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

Top 15 Local Albums of 2015

1.Sarah Shook and The Disarmers – Sidelong
2. The Second Wife – Tourist
3. Escher – The Ground is Missing
4. Chateau – Amissus
5. Mipso – Old Time Reverie
6. Octopus Jones – El Guapo Sessions
7.American Aquarium [pictured above] – Wolves
8. Etiolated – Grey Limbs, Grey Skies
9. Anthony Neff and The Nearly Distants- Blood Beneath the Sun
10. See Gulls – You Can’t See Me

  1. Dragmatic – At Least We’re Not Dead Yet
  2. Bedowyn – Blood of the Fall

13.Boulevards – Boulevards EP

  1. Phil Cook – Southland Mission
  2. Des Ark – Everything Dies

Top 5 Concerts of 2015

  1. Death Grips @ Orange Peel – Asheville
  2. Faith No More @ Red Hat – Raleigh
  3. Glen Hansard @ DPAC – Durham
  4. The Legend of Zelda Symphony @ DPAC – Durham
  5. Primus @ Lincoln Theatre – Raleigh



JASON GROSS, Staff Writer (New York, NY)

2015 Albums

Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love (Sub Pop)

Miguel – Wildheart (Bystorm/RCA)

Pops Staples – Don’t Lose This (Anti-)

Lightning Bolt – Fantasy Empire (Thrill Jockey)

Lyrics Born – Real People (Mobile Home Recordings)

Bjork – Tri Angle Records Birthday DJ Set (soundcloud)

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)

The Go! Team – The Scene Between (Memphis Industries)

Alchemist and Oh No – Alchemist and Oh No Present Welcome to Los Santos (Mass Appeal)

Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too (Big Dada)


Johnny Winter/James Cotton/Muddy Waters – Boston Music Hall 1977 (Echoes)

Various Artists – 60 Songs From The Cramps’ Crazy Collection: The Incredibly Strange Music Box (Righteous)

The Velvet Underground – The Complete Matrix Tapes (UME)

Lefty Frizzell – The Complete Columbia Recording Sessions, Vol. 1 – 1950-1951 (Columbia/Legacy)

Various Artists – The Rough Guide To Psychedelic Salsa (World Music Network)

2015 Tracks/Singles

Beat Spacek — “I Wanna Know” (Ninja Tune)

The Go! Team — “The Scene Between” (Memphis Industries)

Kendrick Lamar — “The Blacker The Berry” (Aftermath)

Estelle — “Something Good/Devotion (Passion Interlude)” (BMG)

Iain Woods — “Fiend” (Soundcloud)

Elle King — “Ex’s and Oh’s” (RCA)

Georgia — “Move Systems” (Domino)

VDP — “Caffeine ft Safe Posse, Joshua McGregor and Abby Martinez” (bandcamp)

Janelle Monae And Wondaland — “Hell You Talmbout”

Robyn and La Bagatelle Magique — “Love Is Free (featuring Maluca)” (Konichiwa/Cherrytree/Interscope)

2015 Concerts

Zombies- NY Society of Ethical Culture- Oct 9, 2015

Kid Koala- Brooklyn Academy of Music- Sept 17, 2015

Lightning Bolt- The Wick, May 15, 2015

Squarepusher – Webster Hall- April 19, 2015

D’Angelo – Apollo Theater- Feb 7, 2015

2015 Books

Carrie Brownstein – Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl

Banning Eyre – Lion Songs: Thomas Mapfumo and the Music That Made Zimbabwe

Kim Gordon – Girl In A Band

Jessica Hopper- The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic

Preston Lauterbach – Beale Street Dynasty: Sex, Song, and the Struggle for the Soul of Memphis



Janis Joplin – Little Girl Blue

Love and Mercy

Syl Johnson- Any Way the Wind Blows

Wrecking Crew


Squarepusher “Stor Eiglass”

Kendrick Lamar “Alright”

Dave Grohl and the Animal “Drum Battle- The Muppets”

Run the Jewels “Close your Eyes”

Lightning Bolt “The Metal East”

Best Record Label: Tie- Sahelsounds and Glitterbeat

Best New Artist: Courtney Barnett

Best Album Packaging: Egyptian Lover “Egypt, Egpyt”

Hero of the Year: The FBI Agent(s) who repossesses Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon A Time in Shaolin album from Martin Shkreli

Worst Trend: Donald Trump

2015 Album I’m Anticipating: PJ Harvey

In Memoriam: Allen Toussaint, Ornette Coleman, B.B. King, Ben E. King, Percy Sledge, Leslie Gore, Errol Brown (Hot Chocolate) and Oliver Sacks

Favorite Blurt Article I Wrote: My 2015 holiday music roundup



HAL BIENSTOCK, Contributing Writer (New York, NY)

2015 Albums

Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope)

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom & Pop)

Royal Headache – High (What’s Your Rupture)

Tame Impala – Currents (Interscope)

Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (Southeastern)

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color (ATO)

Laura Marling – Short Movie (Ribbon/Virgin EMI)

Deerhunter – Fading Frontier (4AD)

Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down… (Matador)

Honorable mention: Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art) / Viet Cong (Jagjaguwar) / Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style (Matador) / Sam Outlaw – Angeleno (Six Shooter) / Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp (Merge) / Kamasi Washington – The Epic (Brainfeeder) / Torres – Sprinter (Partisan)


Bob Dylan – The Cutting Edge 1965 – 1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 (Legacy)

Bruce Springsteen – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection (Columbia)

Neil Young – Bluenote Café (Warner Bros.)

Velvet Underground – The Complete Matrix Tapes (Universal/Polydor)

Various Artists – Ork Records: New York, New York (The Numero Group)

2015 Concerts

Sleater-Kinney – 12/15, Brooklyn, NY

Jason Isbell – 7/24, Brooklyn, NY

Spoon – 3/18, Austin, TX

Sturgill Simpson – 2/12, Brooklyn, NY

The Thompson Family – 1/29, NY, NY

Mekons – 7/21, NY, NY

Palma Violets – 3/20, Austin, TX



DAVE STEINFELD, Staff Writer (New York, NY)

2015 Albums

  1. RICKIE LEE JONES — The Other Side of Desire (TOSOD Music) Rickie Lee’s latest album is her best since 2007’s The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard. From the swaggering “J’ai Connais Pas” to “Christmas in New Orleans,” the prettiest postcard from Hell that you’ll ever hear, the music is informed by The Crescent City (where she now makes her home). The Other Side of Desire is proof that 35 years on, this artist is still growing.
  2. THE ZOMBIES – Still Got That Hunger (The End Records) While most of their British Invasion peers have either hung it up or are just going through the motions, The Zombies are making some of the best music of their career. On Still Got That Hunger, singer Colin Blunstone proves he still has the pipes of a guy half his age. And Rod Argent has come up with his best batch of tunes in ages — from the rocking opener “Moving On” to the top-notch torch song “Edge of the Rainbow.”
  3. THE WAINWRIGHT SISTERS — Songs in the Dark (PIAS) In their first outing as The Wainwright Sisters, Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche (who share the same father, singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III) deliver a disc of lullabies. They didn’t write any of the songs here but that hardly matters. On covers by everyone from Paul Simon to Townes Van Zandt to various family members, the Wainwrights’ voices blend beautifully enough to evoke a dark night in rural Canada, where this album was recorded.
  4. FREEDY JOHNSTON – Neon Repairman (Singing Magnet Records) The kid from Kansas is back with his best album since This Perfect World, some 20 years ago. Highlights range from the achingly pretty title track to catchier fare like “Sentimental Heart” and “Baby, Baby Come Home.”
  5. COURTNEY BARNETT – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Milk!) This Aussie It Girl proves she has the goods to back up the hype on her latest disc. Barnett sets the mood right out of the box with “Elevator Operator”: story-songs that combine infectious melodies with offbeat lyrics.
  6. SOAK — Before We Forgot How to Dream (Rough Trade) SOAK is actually Bridie Monds-Watson, an androgynous singer from Northern Ireland. Before We Forgot How to Dream, her full-length debut, is utterly haunting — and even more impressive since she was only 19 when she recorded it.
  7. SHAWN AMOS — The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You (Put Together) Renaissance man Amos continues to defy expectations on his latest effort. Where his last album was called Harlem, his new one, The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You, was recorded in Louisiana and finds him tackling the blues (and sounding like he’s having a damn good time doing it!). Most of these songs are originals but there’s also a cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights Big City” included for good measure.
  8. THE TURNBACK — Are We There Yet? (self-released) The Turnback is a trio from the NYC area who play good, old-fashioned power pop with the emphasis on “power.” Their sophomore set, Are We There Yet, includes fine originals like “First Song of Summer” and “Faketown,” as well as a cover of The Beatles’ classic “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
  9. NATALIE WALKER — Strange Bird (Dorado Music) Natalie Walker’s fourth solo album finds her collaborating with producer Malina on a series of enchanting electronic tracks about everything from love to the afterlife. The autobiographical title track is my favorite.
  10. AUSTIN PLAINE — Austin Plaine (Razor & Tie) The promising debut from this Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter is highlighted by “Hard Days,” which offers a fresh take on a timeless sentiment.

Honorable Mention: DAWES — All Your Favorite Bands (HUB Records) / COLIN HAY — Next Year People (Compass Records) / THE SELECTER — Subculture (DMF Records) / SARAH PIERCE — Barbed Wire (Little Bear Records) / TOMMY KEENE — Laugh in the Dark (Second Motion Records)


  1. VARIOUS ARTISTS — Ork Records: New York, New York (Numero Group)
  2. VAN MORRISON — The Essential Van Morrison (Sony/Legacy)
  3. EVA CASSIDY — Nightbird (Blix Street Records)
  4. SHOES — Primal Vinyl (BOMP!/Alive Records)
  5. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN — The Essential Bruce Springsteen (Sony/Legacy)

Music Book of the Year: Punk Rock Blitzkrieg by Marky Ramone and Richard Herschlag (Simon & Schuster)

In Memoriam: Too many to mention in 2015, unfortunately. I have to include both Kings (Ben E. and B.B.), Scott Weiland, Ornette Coleman, Phil Woods, Lesley Gore, Errol Brown, John Bradbury, Allen Toussaint, Cynthia Lennon and Lemmy. And I’m sure I’m missing a few…

Comeback of the Year: The Zombies

Asshole of the Year: Madonna… What can you say about a woman who is pushing 60 but is still so desperate to remain relevant that she’ll do everything from flash the audience to leak her own music?

Best Label: Numero Group, for the Ork Records box alone. Incredible music, indelibly packaged.

Best New Artist: SOAK

Best DVD: The Jam: About the Young Idea (Eagle Rock Entertainment)

Best Concert: This one is a toss-up: Joan Armatrading at City Winery and The Zombies at the Society for Ethical Culture. Both shows were in New York City, both took place in October and in both cases I felt like I was witnessing history.

Worst Trend: Outlets that have a lot of money but refuse to pay their writers. I’m looking at you, Huffington Post.

2016 Release I’m Most Anticipating: The new Cheap Trick album, of course!

Favorite Piece for Blurt: “Ben Watt — Moving Target”



STEVE KLINGE — Staff Writer (Wilmington, DE)

 2015 Albums

D’Angelo — Black Messiah (RCA)

Destroyer — Poison Season (Merge)

Hop Along — Painted Shut (Saddle Creek)

Jamie XX — In Colour (XL)

Rickie Lee Jones — The Other Side of Desire (The Other Side of Desire Records / Thirty Tigers)

Mbongwana Star — From Kinsasha to the Moon (World Circuit)

Jessica Pratt — On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)

Royal Headache — High (What’s Your Rupture)

Sleater-Kinney — No Cities To Love (Sub Pop)

Yo La Tengo — Stuff Like That There (Matador)



DANNY R. PHILLIPS, Staff Writer (Union Star, MO)

2015 Albums

Clear Plastic Masks — Being There

Built to Spill — Untethered Moon

Failure — The Heart of a Monster

Vietcong — Vietcong

Death Cab for Cutie — Kintsugi

Beat Happening — Look Around (an anthology)

Murder by Death — Big Dark Love

Screaming Females — Rose Mountain

Jason Isbell — Something More Than Free

Foo Fighters — Saint Cecilia

 Honorable Mentions: Sleater-Kinney No Cities to Love, Baroness Purple, Cage the Elephant Tell Me I’m Pretty, Wilco Star Wars


Star Wars Ep. 7: The Force Awakens

The Best of Enemies

Mad Max: Fury Road


F is For Family






2015 Albums

  1. Josh Ritter: Sermon on the Rocks
  2. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
  3. Lucero — All A Man Should Do
  4. Jason Isbell — Something More Than Free
  5. Rhiannon Giddens — Tomorrow Is My Turn
  6. JD McPherson – Let the Good Times Roll
  7. The Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ
  8. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit
  9. Bottle Rockets – South Broadway Athletic Club
  10. Torres – Sprinter


Continental Drifters — Drifted-In The Beginning

The Dictators – Go Girl Crazy

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks & His Band And the Street Choir

Leadbelly – Smithsonian Collection

Alan Lomax Archives – Root Hog Or Die

Carl Hall – You Don’t Know Nothing About Love

Dream Syndicate – Days Of Wine And Roses

Extra Thoughts

The Best John Prine Song Not Written By John Prine: Clark Paterson’s “Sweet Baby” from his quite fine The Final Tradition album.

The Best New Album After A 40 Year Hiatus: Emitt Rhodes’ Rainbow End, which also brings to mind Warren Zevon, which is never a bad thing.

The Best “Jason Isbell Is Too Upbeat For Me” album: Brent Best’s harrowing Your Dog, Champ.

The Best “It’s Weird But Wonderful, I Think” Reissue: Jeremy Spencer’s 1970 self-titled debut after leaving Fleetwood Mac

The Best “I Just Want To Rock Like It’s 1979” Reissue:  Bad Company – Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy

 The “Dwight Yoakam” Award For Best New L.A. Honky Tonker: Sam Outlaw. A great name and a great debut album, Angeleno.

The “It’s Not Too Late To Get Me A Birthday Present” Award: Bob Dylan, The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12



MARK JENKINS, Staff Writer (Washington DC)

2015 Albums (alphabetical by performer)

Khaira Arby [pictured above] — Gossip (Clermont)
Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)
Beauty Pill — Beauty Pill Describes Things as They Are (Butterscotch)
The Chills — Silver Bullets (Fire)
Daby Toure — Amonafi (Cumbancha)
Evans the Death — Expect Delays (Slumberland)
Gwenno — Y Dydd Olaf (Heavenly/PIAS)
Mbongwana Star — From Kinshasa (World Circuit)
Scenario Art — Happy Umbrella (Ki/oon—Sony Japan)
Terakaft — Alone (Out Here)

Honorable Mention: Robert Forster — Songs to Play (Tapete Germany) / Jenny Hval — Apocalypse, Girl (Sacred Bones) / Cheikh Lo — Balbalou (Chapter Two) / Monoeyes — A Mirage in the Sun (EMI Japan) / Shopping — Why Choose (Fatcat) / The Very Best — Makes a King (PIAS America) / Soccer Team — Real Lessons in Cynicism (Dischord) / Songhoy Blues — Music in Exile (Transgressive) / The Vaselines — V for Vaselines (Rosary)


JD McPherson

STEVE WILSON, Staff Writer

 2015 Albums (aka 11 albums I’ll listen to 10 years from now)

 Libertines – Anthems for Doomed YouthThe greatest English band no one in America cares about.

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just SitIntelligent, funny, distinctive, rocking. That all matters, right?

Jesse Malin – New York Before the War / Outsiders # – A man has to get some cred for putting out two really good records in the same year.

JD McPherson [pictured above] – Let the Good Times Roll – At once brilliantly, passionately retro (the songs), and smartly, sonically po-mo (the production).

D’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah – The great black music of the last half-century, personalized and made revolutionary anew.

Mourn – s/tTeen angst, adult focus.

Deerhunter – Fading Frontier – Band approaching greatness hits “cruise,” and gets better yet.

Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material – Yeah, she is Dolly and John Prine. She’s also Elliott Smith and Aimee Mann. It’s the combination that makes her interesting.

Leon Bridges – Coming HomeIt’s soul music. Personal and archetypal. Sounds good to me.

John Zorn – Pellucidar: A Dreamer’s Fantabula – I dreamt of lyrical jazz-fusion, ace tunes and incredible musicianship. Fusion that didn’t suck.

Beach Slang – The Things We do to Find People Who Feel Like Us – Geez, (emo)tional, earnest pop-punk slam. Makes me want to hear Billy Bragg front the ‘Mats.



BILL HOLMES, Staff Writer (Fairport, NY)
2014 Albums
1 The Sonics – Here Are The Sonics  (Re:Vox)
2 Low Cut Connie – Hi Honey (Contender)
3 Michael Carpenter – The Big Radio ( Big Radio)
4 Kurt Baker – Play It Cool (Rum Bar)
5 Jesse Malin – Outsiders (One Little Indian)
6 Ryan Hamilton – Hell of a Day (Fanny Pack)
7 The New Trocaderos – Thrills and Chills (Uncle Mike’s R&R)
8 Michael Monroe – Blackout States (Spinefarm)
9 The Connection – Labor of Love (Rum Bar)
10 Dan Baird and Homemade Sin – Get Loud (Jerkin’ Crocus)

2015 Tracks/Singles
1 Wifee and the Huzz Band – She Won’t Go (self-released)
2 The Sonics – Sugaree (Re:Vox)
3 Motobunny – Let’s Go Out (Atomic A Go-Go)
4 Cotton Mather – The Book of Too Late Changes (self-released)
5 Wyldlife – Rock Candy (self-released)
6 Ryan Adams – Bad Blood (Blue Note)
7 Steve Deaton Three – Peroxide Blonde in a Hopped Up Model Ford (Plow Handle)
8 The Connection – Don’t Come Back (Rum Bar)
9 The Dictators NYC – Supply and Demand (self-released)
1 The Detroit Cobras – Feel Good (self-released)

2015 Concerts
1 Todd Snider 6/21/15 (Syracuse NY)
2 The Bottle Rockets w/Marshall Crenshaw 1/22/15 (Rochester NY)
3 The Grip Weeds w/ Ray Paul 1/24/15 (Rochester NY)
4 The Works 3/6/15 (Syracuse NY)
5 Barrance Whitfield and the Savages 8/25/15 (Rochester NY)

In Memoriam – Most Lamented Death: December 214’s back-to-back losses of Bobby Keyes and Ian McLagan haunt me more personally than anyone who left this mortal coil in 215. Keyes was a hilarious raconteur whose fact/fiction tales never ceased to entertain, and Mac was a genuine, warm soul whose character as a person exceeded even his stellar music legacy.

Best Label: Rum Bar Records, home to Kurt Baker, The Connection, Los Breakdowns and others. Like Stiff Records or Motown in their heyday, their label imprint is enough to warrant a purchase.

Best Rock Documentary Film: A tough challenge thanks to The Wrecking Crew, but the documentary about The Jam, About The Young Idea, was the one that put the biggest smile on my face.

Best Rock Concert Film:
Frank Zappa and the Mothers Roxy The Movie, finally released after years of delays. Perfectly captures the genius, the humor and the camaraderie of Zappa’s 1973 band featuring the unbelievable Ruth Underwood.

Thank You Santa Award: If it weren’t for Little Steven’s Underground Garage, and Michael Des Barres in particular, radio would be dead to me. Thank you for continuing to hold the match aloft in the wind tunnel.

We Can Now Officially Ice Skate In Hell Award:
December 18th, 2015 – Ray Davies finally appears on stage with Dave and sings “You Really Got Me”. (Although he still referred to his brother as “Dave Death of a Clown Davies”, which no doubt made Dave want to kill him all over again). WATCH THE VIDEO


Eric Thom – Contributing Writer (Toronto, ON)

2015 Albums

1. Darlingside – Birds Say (Thirty Tigers)

2. Rob Nance – Signal Fires (Self-Released)

3. The Mike Henderson Band – If You Think It’s Hot Here (EllerSoul Records)

4. Glen MacNeil – Where The Heart Remains (Self-Released)

5. Denis Parker and the Modern Saints – Denis Parker and the Modern Saints (Self-Released)

6. Eugene Hideaway Bridges – Hold On (Armadillo)

7. Eddie Martin’s Big Red Radio – Live in Tuscany (Bluebloodrecords)

8. The Honeycutters – Me Oh My (Self-Released)

9. David Celia – Double Mind (Self-Released)

10. John Campbelljohn – Chin Up (Nood Records)

Best Concert of 2015: Willie Nile – Horseshoe Tavern, November 15th, 2015


phil cook

JORDAN LAWRENCE, Staff Writer (Columbia, SC)

 2015 Albums

 LOCRIAN — Infinite Dissolution (Relapse) The digital age is terrifying. Real-time maps of nonstop attempted cyber attacks, horror stories of rampant identity theft, doomsday tales about terrorists knocking out the national power grid—all of these and more await you with a quick look around the Internet. But technology is also exhilarating. We’re replacing people’s lost arms with functional robotic ones. IBM’s Watson computer comes as close to to decoding Bob Dylan’s lyrics as most critics. You can even buy a miniature BB-8 that you can control with your smartphone. Locrian excels in the grey area between these extremes. Infinite Dissolution is a technocratic odyssey, a swirling mass of black metal storm clouds and digitized soundscapes. It’s an album amazed by the possibilities presented by new innovations, but it also digs deep into the sense of dread and paranoia that comes along with them. Cascades of pristine synthesizers get swept away by clobbering rhythms and torrential distortion. Ferocious shrieks emerge from corrosive static. The crescendos, huge and awe-inspiring, indulge both wonder and horror. Big things are happening here, but you’ll never know if the outcome is bad or good. Our future could be Terminator. Or we might end up with the casually advanced society of Her. Infinite Dissolution conjures the intoxicating anxiety of staring at the horizon, not knowing what is ahead.

  1. KENDRICK LAMAR — To Pimp a Butterfly (Interscope/Aftermath/Top Dawg) Modern critics have a troubling tendency to elevate rap records they feel are more than just great rap records. So let me start by noting that To Pimp a Butterfly is a mammoth testament to one of today’s greatest, most versatile emcees: Lamar can grunt and growl like a more rhythmically regimented James Brown. He can slink and strut like the second coming of vintage Snoop Dogg. At one point, he plays the role of an estranged friend, slurring and stuttering, ranting at himself in a drunken rage. As a rapper, there’s little Kendrick can’t do. But To Pimp a Butterfly is definitely more than just a great rap record. Its musical landscape unites a wide swath of black traditions, bridging hallucinatory funk and jagged bop, laidback boom-bap and aggressive gangsta rap. Its themes are equally challenging: Lamar confronts sexualized hip-hop stereotypes and institutional racism with hard realities of “ghetto” life. He struggles to reconcile his newfound life as a hip-hop superstar and the debt he owes to his impoverished home of Compton. He supports these heavy topics with top-notch wordplay: “I’m a good field nigga/ I made a flower for you outta cotton just to chill with you,” he purrs on “Complexion (A Zulu Love)”; “I’m black as the heart of a fuckin’ Aryan,” he barks on “The Blacker the Berry.” No matter what you call it, To Pimp a Butterfly is great, a ferocious indictment of modern race relations that landed at a time when that’s exactly what many of us needed.
  1. SLEATER-KINNEY — No Cities to Love (Sub Pop) A full decade separates No Cities to Love from Sleater-Kinney’s previous effort. And yet, the tenacious indie rock trio has never been sharper or more vital. The guitar lines bend and constrict with endless energy, and Corin Tucker howls out a set of songs that tear at the underbelly of our modern complacency: The herky-jerk momentum of “Price Tag” takes a gatling gun to the debtor economy; the title track decries the waning sense of place in towns that increasingly look the same; and “No Anthems” cleverly upends its own premise, wrapping the album’s most soaring chorus around the notion that all of rock’s true anthems have already been sung. No rust here.
  1. SUNN O))) — Kannon (Southern Lord) Sunn O)))’s live show is a tremendous experience. When I saw them three years ago in a large theater in North Carolina, the hooded figures with huge cabinets shook the room to its foundations. They conjured distortion so thick and loud that it seemed to literally shove me down into my seat. Attila Csihar squeezed out his gnarled groans, lending haunting malevolence to the overpowering display. For me, Kannon is the Sunn O))) album that best approximates the group’s live powers. Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson summon huge columns of noise that undulate in a way that is utterly hypnotic, holding you in their sway despite the sound’s intimidating nature. Csihar’s demonic murmurs are equally intoxicating. Showcasing both power and subtlety, Kannon represents Sunn O))) at their very best.
  1. TITUS ANDRONICUS — The Most Lamentable Tragedy (Merge) The Most Lamentable Tragedy tells a five-act story across its 29-track, 93-minute duration. But as with many of the greatest rock operas—The Who’s Quadrophenia, for instance—Titus Andronicus’ fourth outing succeeds by ripping its narrative to shreds. Like that Who classic, Tragedy portrays a mind coming apart, an allegory for singer Patrick Stickles’ own struggles with manic depression. As you’d expect from a story told from the perspective of someone going through various mental breaks, it’s restless and scattershot—and therein lies its strength. Stickles’ chaotic moods are mirrored by music that plays grab-bag with some of narrative rock’s greatest champions, cleverly filtering each idea through the band’s signature brand of nihilistic punk. “No Future Part IV” plays like “Baba O’Riley” dosed on amphetamines and steroids, erupting with ragged enormity as Stickles rants with charismatic fervor. “Stranded (On My Own)” is lean and mean like the best cuts on Fucked Up’s David Comes to Life. The triumphant swell of “Fired Up” draws equally from Bruce Springsteen and Arcade Fire, splitting the difference between past and present. The album doesn’t end quite as convincingly as it begins, but the highs are exhilarating, exploring an important theme and having a ball in the process.
  1. BELL WITCH — Four Phantoms (Profound Lore) Doom metal is supposed to be dour. “Funeral doom,” the even more methodical and macabre sub-genre to which the Seattle duo Bell Witch loosely adhere, doubly so. Four Phantoms is an album about horrific deaths, grisly inescapable ends. But somewhere between the enormous drum concussions and the magmatic riffs, the music finds uplift, emerging from its darkest moments with monolithic riffs that scrape the skies and throaty groans and ghostly cries that intermittently soar. Four Phantoms is dark and uncompromisingly grim, but just as the dour vibes begin to overwhelm, it erupts into moments of triumphant beauty, fleeting gestures made all the more striking by the contrast.
  1. TORO Y MOI — Samantha (self-released) I live in Columbia, South Carolina, the town where Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bundick got his start before he moved west. And when I took to social media to posit that Samantha, the free digital collection Bundick offered up via Instagram this summer, was a better album than What For?, the proper LP he released a couple months prior, many of my followers vigorously disagreed. Samantha, they reasoned, was a loose and incoherent hodgepodge of tracks recorded across three years, it didn’t hold together like an “album” should. And yet, its moody coherence is exactly why Samantha grabs a spot on my list. It’s a paralyzing drift of undulating beats, adapting the chilly feel of Bundick’s early chillwave-defining work to the twilit brooding of Drake and The Weeknd. Shifting with superb smoothness from one track to the next, it’s damn near impossible—for me, at least—not to fall under its thrall. The highlights push from this base into delirious detours: trippy experiments like the Washed Out-featuring “Want,” which interrupts its eerie groove with an extended audio sample from The Notebook, gleaning genuine sentimentality from what should be a cheap trick; luscious hip-hop features like the Diddy-remixing “Benjaminz,” which twists its familiar sample into gilded funeral march, as Rome Fortune spits superbly charismatic verses about the dark side of greed.
  1. PHIL COOK — Southland Mission (Thirty Tigers/Middle West) No album I encountered in 2015 makes me happier than Southland Mission. A couple years back, Cook led a band through a rambunctious Ry Cooder tribute concert. This proper full-length debut, featuring many of those musicians and others, finds Cook conjuring magic to rival his hero, running with wild with various roots rock traditions, recombining them as he sees fit, and doing so with an infectious audible grin. His spin through Charlie Parr’s “1922,” the second song on the album, builds by degrees to a emphatically stomping conclusion, setting a tone that pervades this marvel of enthusiasm.
  1. CATTLE DECAPITATION — The Anthropocene Extinction (Metal Blade) The Anthropocene Extinction is an album about the end of the world. More specifically, it’s an album about how we are killing it. And Cattle Decapitation’s grueling technicality makes it all seem entirely inevitable. This is an airtight deathgrind blitzkrieg, with ferociously precise riffs and drums stoking the band’s tremendous fury, punctuated by guttural growls and valiant swells that feature a smoother, more conniving vocals—the sound of a beleaguered world happily shrugging off the dominion of men? Perhaps. And if so, Cattle Decapitation’s delivery is perfectly—disturbingly—convincing.
  1. DES ARK — Everything Dies (Graveface) Polarity has long defined Aimée Argote. As Des Ark she’s offered challengingly quiet acoustic delicacies, with the songwriter whispering stories of abuse and sexual confusion, confessing her brutal revelations at a volume that leaves the listener straining to hear. But then there’s the insistent surge of her full-band material, galloping forth with desperate intensity, an equally appropriate mood for her powerful songs. Everything Dies skews somewhat to the softer end of things, but it’s the moments where Des Ark muddies the waters that elevate this collection. “Don Taco & His Hot Sauce Toss” blossoms into a bittersweet, banjo-led rollick that’s both tender and driving. “Street Woods” sways with graceful grandiosity, elliptical washes of piano and picking cushioning Argote as she longs for a love she can hold onto “outside the coldness of my own hard truths.” The expanded sonics lend even greater weight to her unencumbered poetry.

FAREWELL: Music World Passings 2015


Paying our final respects to Native-American poet/activist John Trudell, Motorhead founder Lemmy (pictured above, Dec. 28), actor Leonard Nimoy, singer/songwriter Brianna Lea Pruett, jazz icon Allen Toussaint   and many, many more that we lost in 2015.


I quote myself from years’ previous: Having performed this annual ritual for years now, I’ve learned to take a quiet comfort in pulling together notes and combing the internet to learn names, dates, causes of death – and the artistic achievements that prompt us to memorialize the people in the first place. So as you scan down the list of those who did leave us this year, pause when you reach an artist who was particularly special to you, and meditate momentarily on why he or she was special. The list isn’t comprehensive, but it does dovetail into virtually every musical genre and discipline (it additionally includes a handful of non-musicians), and it touches equally upon the obscure and the well-known. For the sake of clarity, particularly if it’s a more obscure artist, in some instance we’ve added the affiliation/group or genre.

And after you pay your own last respects, pledge to seek out those artists who are still with us and who are important to you, and let them know in some way how much you appreciate them. (Note: linked names indicate a published obituary at BLURT.)


Read also:

*BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2014

*BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2013

*BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2012

*BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2011

*BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2010

*BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2009

*BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2008

Kim Fowley

January, 2015

Andrae Crouch – Jan. 8

Tim Drummond (Neil Young) – Jan. 10

Anita Ekberg – Jan. 11

Kim Fowley – Jan. 16

Ian Allen (Negativland) – Jan. 17

Origa Vitalevna – Jan. 17

Dallas Taylor (CSNY) – Jan. 18

A$AP Yams – Jan. 18

Ward Swingle – Jan. 19

Edgar Froese (Tangerine Dream) – Jan. 20

Don Covay – Jan. 31



February, 2015

The Jacka – Feb. 2

Thom Wilson (producer) – Feb. 8

Steve Strange (Visage) – Feb. 12

Lesle Gore – Feb. 16

Clark Terry – Feb. 21

Leonard Nimoy – Feb. 27


Andy Fraser

March, 2015

Orin Keepnews (jazz producer) – March 1

Jimmy Greenspoon (Three Dog Night) – March 11

Mike Porcaro (Toto) – March 15

Andy Fraser (Free) – March 16

A.J. Pero (Twisted Sister) – March 20

Helen Landis – March 22

Lil’ Chris – March 23

Jeremy Brown (Scott Weiland & the Wildabouts) – March 30

Serena Von Orbit (Potential Weight) – March 31


Percy Sledge

April, 2015

Bill Arhos (Austin City Limits) – April 11

Percy Sledge – April 14

Lois Lilienstein (Sharon, Lois & Bram) – April 22

Jack Ely (Kingsmen) – April 28

Ben E. King – April 30


BB King

May, 2015

Errol Brown (Hot Chocolate) – May 6

Chinx – May 17

B.B. King – May 14

Ortheia Barnes-Kennerly (jazz) – May 15

Darius Minwalla (Posies) – May 21

Louis Johnson (Johnson Brothers) – May 21

Dennis Sheehan (U2 tour manager) – May 27



June, 2015

James Last – June 10

Ornette Coleman – June 11

Jim Ed Brown (country) – June 11

Randy Howard (country) – June 11

Wendell Holmes (blues)– June 19

James Horner (composer) – June 22

MC Supreme – June 13

Chris Squire – June 26



July, 2015

Val Doonican – July 1

Red Lane (country songwriter) – July 2

Charanjit Singh (electronic) – July 3

John Vickers (opera) – July 10

Joan Sebastian (Mexican singer/songwriter) – July 12

Buddy Buie (songwriter) – July 18

Dieter Moebius – July 20

Steve Rodriguez (Dragons) – July 21

Justin Lowe (After the Burial) – July 21

Daron Norwood (country)– July 23

Bobbi Kristina Brown – July 26

Vic Firth (jazz) – July 26

Lynn Anderson (country) – July 31


Cilla Black

August, 2015

Cilla Black – Aug. 1

Sean Price – Aug. 8

Bob Johnston (producer) Aug. 14

Joy Beverley (Beverley Sisters) – Aug. 21



September, 2015

Brianna Lea Pruett – Sept. 2

Judy Carne (“Laugh-In”) – Sept. 3

Dennis Greene (Sha Na Na) – Sept. 5

Bryn Merrick (Damned) – Sept. 12

Gary Richrath (REO Speedwagon) – Sept. 13

Yogi Berra – Sept. 22

Frankie Ford – Sept. 28



October, 2015

Billy Joe Royal – Oct. 6

Gail Zappa – Oct. 7

Koopsta Knicca – Oct. 9

Larry Rosen (jazz producer) – Oct. 9

Robbin Thompson (Steel Mill) – Oct. 10

Steve MacKay (Stooges) – Oct. 10

Carey Lander (Camera Obscura) – Oct. 11

John Jennings – Oct. 16

Richard Rosebrough (Memphis/Ardent Studios/Big Star associate) – Oct. 18

Corey Wells (Three Dog Night) – Oct. 20

Joe Moss (Smiths manager) – Oct. 22

Diane Charlemagne – Oct. 28

Michael Carlucci (Winter Hours) – Oct. 30

Al Molinari (“Happy Days”) – Oct. 30



November, 2015

Tommy Overstreet – Nov. 2

Andy White (Beatles) – Nov. 9

Allen Toussaint – Nov. 10

Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor (Motorhead) – Nov. 11

Nick Alexander (Eagles of Death Metal merch manager) – Nov. 13

P.F. Sloan – Nov. 15

Ramona Jones (“Hee Haw”) – Nov. 17

David VanLanding (Michael Schenker Group) – Nov. 17

Cynthia Robinson (Sly & the Family Stone) – Nov. 23

Buddy Moreno – Nov. 29



December, 2015

Scott Weiland – Dec. 3

Holly Woodlawn – Dec. 6

Bonnie Lou (rockabilly) – Dec. 8

John Trudell – Dec. 8

Mick Lynch (Stump) – Dec. 17

Peter Broggs (reggae) – Dec. 19

William Guest (Gladys Knight & the Pips) – Dec. 24

John Bradbury (Specials) – Dec. 28

Nick Combe (Gallon Drunk) – Dec. 22

Lemmy Kilmister, Dec. 28

Meadowlark Lemon – Dec. 28

Stevie Wright (Easybeats) – Dec. 30

Natalie Cole – Dec. 31

Wayne Rogers (“M.A.S.H.”) – Dec. 31