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Deep Voices #75
Smiling and waving with both hands
Thanks for reading Deep Voices! Each edition is a one-hour playlist with notes on music. I hope you’ll consider subscribing. A paid subscription gets you access to exclusive playlists and supports my writing.
On Saturday, I drove to Queens to attend the WFMU record fair. My route went through Hasidic Williamsburg. It was both pouring and the Sabbath, so not many people were out. One man who was had a large plastic rain shield covering his shtreimel, the large, circular fur hat some Jewish men wear. I imagined what must have been going through his mind that week. Somewhere was room for the thought that he shouldn’t ruin his hat. At the fair, I bought a few records, including Amber by Autchere. I played it for my daughter in the evening. She’s 10 months old. I held her up to the record player to watch the record spin and she smiled and waved at it with both hands.
I quite like all the music on this week’s playlist. It feels like a good mix of genres and moods. Lifelike. Notes on some of the songs are below, as per usual.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Truth Club, an indie group that I told one friend I thought sounded “emo-adjacent” and which another friend told me sounds like “sad Pavement.” They have a really, really excellent new album on the Double Double Whammy label that I think, after a lot of listens, might most accurately be compared to legends of pensiveness, Unwound. Both bands have various moments of relief, but it’s the tension before and after that feels most poignant. Or, in more literal terms, they use flat vocal delivery to play off a bass that sounds shredded and a dissonant guitar that nonetheless swans ahead with sweetness in its melody. Truth Club have more soft moments than Unwound, a little more strumming, a little less total chaos. Nice to nod in the direction of disaster without succumbing to it.
Whether or not I should be embarrassed to admit it, I discovered the band Felt because of the band Girls, the San Francisco duo who wrote objectively perfect pop-rock songs. Their singer, Christopher Owens, professed a great deal of admiration for Felt, the ’80s era UK group lead by the mononymed Lawrence. Felt, I discovered, were practitioners of a dramatic jangle, writers of tight and gorgeous lamentations. Lawrence is a bard. I bought all their records and cherish them.
Felt’s sound is present in a lot of S.F. bands, as is Girls. The best place to find this next generation of heart-on-sleeve rock bands is on the record label Paisley Shirt Records, who have released dozens of great records. Some of my favorites are by April Magazine, Flowertown, Whitney’s Playland, and Sad Eyed Beatniks, which is the project of Kevin Linn, who runs the label. He’s said that most of the recordings were first or second takes of songs, created spontaneously. The album that “Hysterical Rooters,” the song on this playlist, was taken from, was the first time he’d made a record after performing live. While I would not say it makes the songs sound absolutely cohesive, there is a slightly more practiced passion to his playing. It’s a unique sound, close to a demo, but performed with a good deal of ambition. The resulting sound is fragile and sweet.
This sound, from Felt to Girls to S.E.B. really resonates with me. It’s maybe a little overdramatic. It owes a lot to the Velvet Underground, another band I have always loved. For a long time, I thought maybe I didn’t like rock music. I liked hardcore, jazz, experimental people doing experimental stuff. But maybe I just had bad taste. This stuff all sounds great. Music doesn’t always have to be a weapon.
When I’ve been in a less chipper mood the last few weeks (mostly when writing, go figure), I’ve been exploring the back catalog of Teresa Winter. If music doesn’t have to be a weapon, her music is asking if it can be a weapon at least sometimes. Her songs are often long, dissonant, squelching. They’re sometimes, but not always, a vehicle for her voice, which is usually whispered. She’s either telling you a secret or she’s out of breath. The whole thing is really eerie. But I’ve become quite taken with this idiosyncratic sound of hers, living in this nebulous area between noise music and ambient music. One is designed to punish, the other soothe. It’s quite an overlap. I don’t usually start Deep Voices’ playlists with super long songs but I find the instrumental, demented church organ paean, the near-nine minute “นม and earth” to be entrancingly nightmarish throughout its duration. I understand that this might end up being one of those “agree to disagree” type situations, but indulge me.