Saturday, August 27, 2011

Magnetic Fields rarities

Like many, I have been eagerly anticipating the release of Stephin Merritt: Obscurities, which came out on Merge last week. Though, probably also like many, I approach this album with mixed feelings. On one hand, I am of course excited to have a compiled and remastered selection of rarities from the Merritt vaults; at the same time, it makes all those 7"s I bought 15 years ago seem a little less precious. Or perhaps more precious as objects, but less precious for the music they contain, which is now available to all. As it should be (this blog is evidence of my feelings in that regard) - but like I said, these feelings are mixed.

Also complicating my reaction to the new compilation is the fact that it contains several old songs that have never (or hardly ever) seen the light of day - but also that there is a whole slew of obscure songs left off. A number of people have suggested that there should be a second volume released, but from the sound of this interview, that seems pretty unlikely. And so, I've put together this mix as an addendum to the Merge album. I've cheated a bit, because this contains a number of songs outside the timeframe of the Obscurities album, which only goes up to 1999. And there are still some other songs that I didn't put on - the content of all the Future Bible Heroes singles, for instance, or the dance remix of "I Thought You Were My Boyfriend," or the iTunes bonus track from Realism, or a few others. But this mix does feature all of Stephin Merritt's covers (the Numan and Bowie are particularly good), as well as many of more fabulous other tracks from compilations and smaller releases. It's a good listen!

Stephin Merritt
Obscurities (Addendum), compiled 2011

1. Stephin Merritt, "Get Carter" (0:30; Human League cover, 2000)
2. The Magnetic Fields, "I Die: You Die" (3:10; Gary Numan cover, 1997)
3. The Magnetic Fields, "'Heroes'" (5:56; David Bowie cover, 1996)
4. Stephin Merritt, "Beauty" (3:29; Tall Dwarfs cover, 1988)
5. The Magnetic Fields, "The Man Amplifier" (2:25; Young Marble Giants cover, 1995)
6. The Magnetic Fields, "Le Tourbillion" (2:17; Jeanne Moreau cover, 1999)
7. The 6ths (feat. Lloyd Cole), "Human" (3:20; Human League cover, 2000)
8. Stephin Merritt, "Not One of Us" (3:58; Peter Gabriel cover, 2010)
9. Stephin Merritt, "Dream Again" (4:11; Franz Ferdinand cover, 2011)
10. Future Bible Heroes, "Don't You Want Me" (3:50; Human League cover, 2000)
11. The Magnetic Fields, "If I Were a Rich Man" (5:08; Fiddler on the Roof cover, 1999)
12. The Magnetic Fields, "Plant White Roses (Susan Anway vocal)" (4:45; 1995)
13. The Magnetic Fields, "Crowd of Drifters (Susan Anway vocal)" (3:33; 1990)
14. The Gothic Archies, "City of the Damned (original mix)" (1:43; 1996)
15. The Gothic Archies, "The Dead Only Quickly" (1:10; 1996)
16. The Magnetic Fields, "Plant White Roses (Stephin Merritt vocal)" (4:06; 1994)
17. The Magnetic Fields, "The Nun's Litany (Stephin Merritt vocal)" (2:58; 2008)
18. Stephin Merritt, "A Man of a Million Faces" (4:18; 2008)
19. Stephin Merritt, "I'm in a Lonely Way" (2:19; 2007)
20. Stephin Merritt, "The Meaning of Lice" (3:02; 2006)
21. Future Bible Heroes, "Mr. Punch" (3:05; 2007)
22. Future Bible Heroes, "O! What a Dream It Was" (3:22; 1996)

Get it all here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Treepeople + Archers of Loaf

In the spirit of all those Teriyaki Asthma singles and my long-running desire to showcase bands from my home state of North Carolina, I thought it would make sense to build a post around this great double 7" release by Treepeople and Archers of Loaf. To boot, I recently saw the Archers on their reunion tour, although due to a scheduling snafu by one of my friends and the fact that the show started exactly on schedule, I missed almost their entire set, which was a bummer. By the way, what's up with bands actually starting on time these days? Is everyone getting old? Or are clubs starting to be all professional and shit? I'm not really complaining, as it is nice to get out of a club having seen three acts by midnight, but it feels a bit odd somehow.

Anyway, for those who don't know, Archers of Loaf were, alongside Superchunk and Polvo, one of the early-90s indie rock bands from Chapel Hill to "make it" on a national scale. They formed in 1991 and released their first album Icky Mettle in 1993. This classic has recently been reissued by Merge and the new version contains much of the material that I am posting here. As always, I encourage you to go pick that up if you'd like a clean copy of these songs. The band consists of Eric Johnson, Matt Gentling, Mark Price, and Eric Bachmann (later of Barry Black and Crooked Fingers). Treepeople were from the opposite side of country, having formed in Seattle after its various members left Boise, Idaho: Scott Schmaljohn, Wayne Rhino Flower, Pat Brown, and Doug Martsch (later of Built to Spill). They didn't take off in quite the way that the Archers did, but they definitely established a place for themselves in the PNW scene. (See their previously-posted appearance on Teriyaki Asthma VIII.) Their line-up changed over the years, most notably when Martsch left to form Built to Spill around 1993/94.

That was right around the moment that this single was recorded. The idea here was that each of the two bands would contribute one new song and one cover of a song by the other band. This leads us to the alluring prospect of hearing Doug Marsch sing "Web in Front" but sadly I believe he had already left the band at this point. At least it doesn't sound like his voice, and the single doesn't include line-ups for the bands - does anyone know whether its him or Schmaljohn singing? Regardless, this is a powerful selection of four songs by two great bands, and well worth a listen.

Treepeople + Archers of Loaf double 7", 1994
Sonic Bubblegum, no. 16

A. Treepeople, "Meet at the End" (4:04)
B. Treepeople, "Web in Front" (2:24)
C. Archers of Loaf, "Quinnbeast" (3:38)
D. Archers of Loaf, "Funnelhead" (2:51)

To give a bit of context for that single, I thought it would be nice to also share Treepeople's first single, from 1989. This one does feature Martsch and the rest of the band in full glory. They sound just slightly ahead of their time, considering this is from the (late) 80s - unlike, say, Nirvana's early output, this could easily be mistaken as having been written after indie/grunge/whatever became so much more mainstream a few years later.

Treepeople 7", 1989
Silence, no. 2

A. "Important Things" (4:24)
B1. "Handcuffs" (3:51)
B2. "In My Head" (2:10)

Sadly I don't have Archers of Loaf's first single (the stunning Wrong/South Carolina), but I do have their second one, which fittingly includes "Web in Front" to compare with Treepeople's version. This was the band's first big hit, and it still sounds great today.

Archers of Loaf, The Loaf's Revenge 7", 1993
Alias, no. 41

A1. "Web in Front" (2:05)
A2. "Bathroom" (1:45)
B. "Tatyana" (4:37)

Finally, since the Archers songs above have all been released on their Speed of Cattle comp or otherwise reissued on the new Icky Mettle release, I thought you might like to hear this single from a few years later, featuring "Harnessed in Slums" off their second LP, Vee Vee, plus a pretty great flipside that to my knowledge has not been otherwise released (yet).

Archers of Loaf, Harnessed in Slums 7", 1995
Alias, no. 72

A. "Harnessed in Slums" (3:12)
B. "Telepathic Traffic" (2:59)

Get all four singles here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bonus round: Teriyaki Asthma & Load

So, no sooner had I finished my last post than did I find myself at a record store in Williamsburg, sifting through old 7"s, and lo and behold what should I find but another volume of Teriyaki Asthma! For a dollar no less. (They had Level Records's Squirrel and Hamster records for cheap too, incidentally.) I thought about adding this to the post below but then a week passed, and then some more, so I figure better now to make this its own little mini-post.

Teriyaki Asthma IX feels a little bit like the series is going out on a whimper. After the downright badassness of Volume VIII - especially that Ween track - the four bands featured here seem pretty innocuous.
At least at first. Then I did some digging and discovered that the first featured act, Superconductor, was the first band led by Carl Newman (of the New Pornographers) and that, to boot, it featured six (!) guitars, two basses, plus drums. That must have made for a pretty amazing live act, and you can just get a glimpse of that here, in their cover of an excellent song by the La's. Stymie, the second band featured, should not be confused with the more recent band with the same name - this is the grunge band that never seemed to get it together and make many official recordings during its actual lifespan (their first single was called "Debut Posthumous Single"). On side two, Crackerbash would have been near the end of their run by the time they recorded this - not much info to be found about them. And finally, regarding Trash Can School: as an art guy, I have to give them props for referencing the Ashcan School in their band name, though I'm not sure what meaning we're supposed to derive from that. Maybe it's better just to settle in with their song, as we round out the run of the Teriyaki Asthma singles series.

Teriyaki Asthma IX, 1993
C/Z, no. 70

A1. Superconductor, "There She Goes" (2:27)
A2. Stymie, "One Proud Stout" (2:00)
B1. Crackerbash, "Head Lika Weedeater" (2:42)
B2. Trash Can School, "Hobgoblins" (1:56)

Get the single here.

And you know, while I'm in the bonus mood, I think I'll throw in that last demo by Load, which jamdkoff had requested a little while back. This is quite the epic endeavor - a 10+ minute operatic rock masterpiece. Or perhaps failure. Either way, all that spoken-word poetic diatribe-y stuff on the Load demo tape gets played out here to the fore. See what you think:
Get it here.

More soon!