Jimmie Spheeris_IsleForgotten albums by mellow singer-songwriters of the early 1970s are pretty ubiquitous these days, I know. Especially when it comes to introverted and acoustic-leaning young men who floated under the radar (or too close to the sun) and whose careers took a nose dive in the wake of prog rock and the rise of the Marshall stack. But Jimmie Spheeris’s Isle of View (1970) is an entirely different kind of laid back beast. Imagine a collaboration between Bill Fay, Harry Nilsson, Cat Stevens, and David Crosby and you’d be approaching the Spheeris chimera—but any attempt to nail down what exactly makes Isle of View so special can only ever be approximate. The atmosphere on this album is more like a weather system, constantly changing in shape and mood.

Those who caught the Late Autumn Light mix, will have already heard Spheeris’s beautifully resonant voice on an Isle of View cut called “Come Back.” There he unravels the tune in a way that would do Tim Hardin proud, deceptively lackadaisical, locating a lush middle ground between church choir and jazz trio. But he also goes a step further, allowing the musical accompaniment to make the same journey that he’s making vocally. His singing moves the song forward and the band moves with him.

Jimmie Spheeris :: Come Back

Isle of View opening track “The Nest,” meanwhile, lets you know right off the bat that this is not going to be your average Sensitive Seventies Guy Record. A piano drifts in moodily before settling on a melody that is just as chilly and unnerving as anything Mike Oldfield could cook up. Spheeris’s breathy vocal does, at first, bring to mind “Lady D’Urbanville,” but this Cat is about to pounce unexpectedly. ‘Take me from the nest,’ he howls, and both song and vocal take off. Orchestra strings comes swooping in, rocking harder than anything else on the remainder of the track list (or Spheeris’s career, for that matter)—and this despite the absence of a guitar, acoustic or otherwise. We’re suddenly in the full-on, symphonic territory of The Moody Blues or Procol Harum. Lyrically too, Spheeris is drawing from the same prog-rock well: ‘My scarlet ship sails sacred oceans,’ etc. So sensitive, yes, all right—but hardly the acoustic troubadour stereotype.

Jimmie Spheeris :: The Nest

And that’s just one example of how protean the music on Isle of View can be. On “For Roach,” the very next track, for instance, Spheeris seems suddenly to be channeling Fred Neil, letting the melody drift beautifully around the easy sway of the song. Nilsson’s balletic vocal style is an obvious touchstone, but then so is the soulful side of Neil Diamond’s baritone. At one moment, Spheeris can be wispy and ethereal, the next, earthy, digging deep into his register. Similarly, on “I am the Mercury,” it’s amazing the way in which he sounds simultaneously so high and so low—what begins as soft and melancholy as “Guinevere,” eventually crescendos into an Everybody’s Talkin’-style vocal work out.

It may sound like the old rock n’ roll myth-machine at work, but Spheeris did in fact spend his early years on the road with a traveling carnival. His father was a sometime strongman who ran an operation called The Magic Empire that toured around the US. Spheeris himself is registered as having been born in no less likely a place than Phenix, Alabama, while his sister, Penelope (who would later go on to make The Decline of Western Civilization documentaries and direct Wayne’s World) was born in New Orleans. When Spheeris Sr died (murdered by a ‘belligerent carnival-goer’ so the story goes), the family moved to southern California, where they stayed. All of which might explain both the transient quality of Spheeris’s music and the fact it remains so saturated in West Coast, singer-songwriter vibes.

Jimmie Spheeris :: Long Way Down

Listen to “Long Way Down”. It begins as sparingly and as moodily as “The Nest,” just a few harmonics, before morphing into a low key, jazz club shuffle. You’re half-expecting Tim Buckley to start moaning gorgeously in that way only Tim Buckley can moan, but then the whole song turns on a dime and we’re suddenly coasting along to a CSN groove. And then—wait, can this be right?—a string quartet is grooving along with them. When Spheeris’s vocal enters, it lets us know that we’re moving, surprising us with hooks and breaks that aren’t showy or confusing but have their own obvious logic. One moment we’re hearing echoes of Nilsson, the next Laura Nyro. It’s like watching the street smart kid who’s hustling his way through the city: he knows where he’s headed and he knows how to get there. Then he turns a corner and he’s gone. Spheeris stops singing and the music continues without him, growing more and more eerie until we’re finally back in the dark again.

In the case of Isle of View, reaching for the title of Lost Classic is maybe a little misguided. The concept has very nearly created its own genre now, much of it consisting of minor folk fare from this exact period in rock history. So it’s possibly become too restrictive a term for an album that sounds so great largely because it’s so multifarious. It’s just too dreamy and amorphous to have ever been considered an out-and-out classic (dream of dreams: one wonders how a similarly manic magpie like Van Dyke Parks might have orchestrated his later albums). To call Isle of View lost is also to do something of a disservice to those who have been singing the praises of Spheeris since his untimely death at the age of 34 (he was riding his motorcycle home after a recording session when he was struck by a drunk driver). For this reason, I prefer genre-defying, I prefer surprising, I prefer worthy of love. words / dk o’hara

1610Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice, every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

Download the SOLSTICE mixtape, here

SIRIUS 368: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ The B-G System – I Don’t Want To Be Your Man ++ Harvey Mandel – Wade In The Water Part I ++ Unknown Japanese Artist – Song Unknown ++ Toy Factory – Little Girl ++ The Rattlers – The Witch ++ Think – California (Is Getting So Heavy) ++ Spirit – The Other Song ++ Lightmyth – Across The Universe ++ Unknown Russian Artist – BPEMR ++ Wilding/Bonus – Son Of Alma ++ Emy Jackson and Blue Comets – You Don’t Know Baby ++ The Mardi Gras – If I Can’t Have You ++ Novac – Beyond The Look ++ Little Richard – Nuki Suki ++ Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and The Trinity – This Wheel’s On Fire ++ Delia Gartrell – See What You Done, Done ++ Funkadelic – I Wanna Know If It’s Good To You? ++ Shuggie Otis – Jenni Lee ++ Takuro Yoshida – A Night Of Our Trip ++ The Cryan’ Shames – Baltimore Oriole ++ The Fabulous Flippers – It Was A Very Good Year ++ Zephyr – Night Fades Softly ++ The Tigers – Seaside Bound ++ Ichiro Araki – Itoshi No Macks ++ The Dirty Shames – Coconut Grove ++ Old Well – Sanae-chan ++ The Kinks – Apeman ++ Midnight Sun – Where You Going To Be ++ Anita Kerr – Strange ++ The Free Design – Girls Alone ++ The Tempters – Kamisama Onegai ++ David Axelrod – Part I ++ Takuro Yoshida – I Live On ++ Springtime Carnivore – Sun Went Black

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.

D'AngeloMichael Eugene Archer, better known as D’Angelo, states his case clearly in the liner notes of Black Messiah, his long-awaited, 14 years-in-the-making third album with the Vanguard. “Black Messiah is a hell of a name for an album. It can be easily misunderstood. Many will think it’s about religion. Some will jump to the conclusion that I’m calling myself a Black Messiah. For me, the title is about all of us. It’s about the world. It’s about an idea we can all aspire to. We should all aspire to be a Black Messiah….It’s not about praising one charismatic leader but celebrating thousands of them…Black Messiah is not one man. It’s a feeling that, collectively, we are all that leader.”

In light of Ferguson, Occupy Wall Street, Egypt – places and movements D’Angelo also cites in the liners – Black Messiah does feel like a collective statement, one that is frustrated, tense, wild and charged, one that digs deep and rips up unnecessary bullshit and finds smoldering beauty hidden underneath. But the album is also about one man, D’Angelo, whose myth sometimes threatens to overshadow his actual work. D’Angelo, the guy who hit the scene with Brown Sugar, a breathing, organic R&B album, before ascending to Voodoo, the crown jewel of the neo-soul movement, driven by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and the Soulquarians, alongside seminal works like The Roots’ Things Fall Apart, Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun, and Common’s Like Water for Chocolate. Writing in his 2013 memoir Mo’ Meta Blues, Thompson discusses Voodoo’s release in 2000. “Was D a messenger who came bearing this Scripture? Was he himself a kind of savior? Or was it more like a Life of Brian situation, where the crowd was out in the town square waiting for their messiah and the next guy to come along got tapped for the job?”

It is no slight to Black Messiah to say that with it D’Angelo picks up where Voodoo left off, pulling classic soul and funk influences – Mayfield, Gaye, Wonder, Stone, Green — and fashioning them into a thoroughly modern thing, incorporating elements from hip-hop, the avant-garde pop of Prince, the sanctity of gospel, and the carnal drive of the blues. There was a fear as the time stretched away from Voodoo that any follow up would let down, be too fussed over or too sprawling to hold. It is neither. The songs on Black Messiah blur time, sounding alternately like D’Angelo – along with co-writers Kendra Foster of Parliament/Funkadelic and Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest — could have finished them ten years or ten days ago.

“I’m gonna keep you/safe from evil opinion,” D’Angelo sings on opener “Ain’t That Easy,” cresting over impossibly slinky bass courtesy of Pino Palladino (or himself – the two provide all the bass work on the album, and it is a defining sonic element on all 12 songs) and sparse snare cracks from Questlove. Things get more frantic with “1,000 Deaths,” featuring sampled audio from speaking of the Christ of the Bible, not the anglicized Christ, but the one with “hair like lamb’s wool.” It is a furious song, its groove incessant, breaking occasionally to give way to swells of psychedelic guitar. “Because a coward dies a thousand times,” D’Angelo sings through distortion, “But a soldier only dies just once.” As the song’s strains fade, “The Charade” begins, a deep breathing, stunning composition. “All we wanted was a chance to talk/’Stead we only got outlined in chalk,” D’Angelo sings. “Feet have bled a million miles we’ve walked /Revealing at the end of the day, the charade.”

The album’s flourishes are many. “Sugah Daddy” bounces like Allen Toussaint and The Meters, “Really Love” balances cresting flamenco guitars and gorgeous string arrangements, “Betray My Heart” finds D’Angelo fully in jazz mode, and “The Door” features country fried steel guitar and downhome whistles. The genre back-and-forth never feels like D’Angelo is simple showing off; each touch adds to the whole of the statement.

Album closer “Another Life,” with beautiful electric sitar that recalls classic Philly soul, feels effortless, with nearly six minutes of gorgeous melodies. In some ways it feels like the natural extension of D’Angelo’s defining slow jam “Untitled (How Does It Feel),” but there are elements of the melodic freedom that defines the last segment of Voodoo at work too, recalling songs like “Greatdayandamornin’/Booty” and “Africa.” It’s hard to imagine a performer more capable of singing these lines: “I’m not surprised to find that angels compete/For the chance to lay down at your feet/I’m gonna touch at all of the places that please/Pull you close/I wanna feel you breathe.” D’Angelo’s vocal acrobatics, screaming falsetto notes and frenzied call-and-response volleys, convey the feelings that words aren’t able to.

As Black Messiah finishes, you’re left contemplating that it might not just equal Voodoo, but better it. It will take years to come to any conclusion, but in Mo’ Meta Blues Questlove suggests that Voodoo connected to the past in an “organic way.” Black Messiah furthers that connection. “Not every song on this album is politically charged (though many are)…” D’Angelo writes in the liners. “…but calling this album Black Messiah creates a landscape where these songs can live to the fullest.” They do live, and will continue to resonate for many, many years. words / j woodbury

D’Angelo And The Vanguard :: Sugah Daddy


Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.

Over the past 20+ years, I’ve had Dean Wareham to thank for numerous turn-ons via his interpretation of other’s work. Luna’s rendering of Michel Polnareff’s “La poupee qui fait non” immediately comes to mind, as does his re-appreciation of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Moonshot”. As such, it’s fitting we close out 2014’s Lagnappe Sessions with the artist taking on a pair of seasonal tunes — Eddy Arnold’s “Christmas Can’t Be Far Away”, and “Silent Night”. Wareham, in his own words, below.

My penpal Christmas Hollow (bassist in the Sandpebbles and a fan of your site) sends me a Christmas comp every year without fail, that’s where I heard Eddy Arnold doing “Christmas Can’t Be Far Away”. The song was written by legendary Nashville songwriter Boudleaux Byrant (“Love Hurts”, “Wake Up Little Susie”, “Raining in My Heart”).

Dean Wareham :: Christmas Can’t Be Far Away (Eddy Arnold)

This version is a mash-up, I sing the first two verses in the original German but the third verse is inspired by the Only Ones’ recording of the song, for which Peter Perrett seems to have written his own, somewhat darker lyrics.

Dean Wareham :: Stille Nacht (The Only Ones)


Weaving its way between vintage garage, folk, soul and pop, Solstice is the first of a series of upcoming collaborations with Portland, OR based record collectors Sam Huff and Colton Tong. At two hours, digging globally, Solstice is a mercurial, psych-tinged collection of late 60s and early 70s sounds assembled to compliment those long winter nights descending upon us all. Lots of reverb. . .


Here it is. Our obligatory year-end review. The following is an unranked list of albums that caught, and kept, our attention in 2014. Have at it.  – AD


The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground Super Deluxe: Mono mixes, closet mixes, 2014 mixes, whatever mixes. What makes the hefty price tag on this reissue of the VU’s masterful third LP is the inclusion of two disc’s worth of the legendary Matrix Tapes: 2+ hours of beautiful, high quality late-1969 multitrack recordings of the band onstage in full flight. Take a sip from the holy velvet grail. (buy)

Native North America: Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985: It’s telling that in 2014, the music and messages of the Native Americans featured on Native North America still feel present and vital. Compiled by musicologist Kevin “Sipreano” Howes, the rules here are loose musically, encompassing garage rock, country, psych, and folk. But while the music and approaches are varied, at their best these songs serve as powerful protest songs, like Métis singer-songwriter Willie Dunn’s “I Pity the Country,” and Willy Mitchell and Desert River Band’s “Kill’n Your Mind.” These are songs that address an uneven political landscape and the damages of colonialism, but also celebrate culture, life, and nature. It’s a complicated set of songs from a group of people whose voices have too often gone unheard. (buy)

John Coltrane, Offering: Live at Temple University: Coltrane came home in 1966, to Temple University in Philadelphia, and he brought with him all the beauty, wrath, power and glory he was capable of. With his wife Alice on piano, Pharaoh Sanders on tenor saxophone & piccolo, Rashied Ali on drums, and Sonny Johnson on bass, Offering is the sound of Coltrane cutting off ties with the ground, leaving behind the blues and pushing his sound into a new, more free reality. His horn ripples and he beats his chest. Coltrane would be be gone within nine months of the performance, but he imbues each note with everything he has. The effect is as lasting as it is shocking. (buy)


Amen Dunes – Love: Lighter and less solitary (probably more accessible) than Damon McMahon’s previous work, Amen Dunes strips some lo-fi to profess Love, in the realist sense of the emotion. It isn’t all dew-dripped and sun-drenched, but it also isn’t anxious and confused. It’s a bit of both dawn and dusk. McMahon’s voice, pitched and moaning, is more an instrument for sound than words here. Though there are infinite expressions of love, McMahon’s is singular and distinct. (buy)

Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness: Angel Olsen’s 2012 lp Half Way Home was a quiet, plaintive affair — a low-key country waltz with minimal, yet affecting instrumentation. Conversely, Burn Your Fire found her plugging in and turning up the faders. An album of closeness and distance, heartache and heartbreak. Olsen navigates these ups and downs with her voice as captain. It’s a mesmerizing instrument, sweet, tranquil then suddenly intense in an ascendant vibrato. (buy)

Steve Gunn – Way Out Weather: Hot on the heels of last year’s fantastic Time Off, Way Out Weather is a tour de force filled with a seemingly endless array of awesome guitar tones, fantastic interplay and powerful songwriting. It’s Gunn’s most lushly produced effort to date, and this approach works out perfectly — it’s a record you’ll get lost in, whether you’re playing it at home or taking it for a spin on the open road (we highly recommend the latter). (buy)


Jennifer Castle – Pink City: Jennifer Castle crafted one of the more beautiful records of the year. Hailing from Toronto, her voice recalls the energy of Laurel Canyon like some 40-year-old folk record might. But Pink City is much more than a yesteryear retread. Gentle rolling guitar, Owen Pallett’s lush string arrangements and Castle’s voice – an indefinable thing that is at once fragile, delicate and rugged – are just some of the elements that make up this collection of gorgeous, pastoral folk songs. (buy)

Daniel Bachman – Orange Co. Serenade: This American Primitive guitar upstart has been churning out LPs like his life depended on it for the past few years. But the dude just keeps getting better somehow. Orange Co. Serenade is his best yet — a wonderful, assured recording that splits the difference between Bachman’s love of timeworn, old-timey melodies and dronier, more “out” sounds. (buy)

Tinariwen – Emmaar: Tinariwen are the present masters of the Tuareg “desert blues.” Besides being at the peak of their craft, Emmaar stands out in the band’s discography as the first album in the group’s 30+ year history to be truly made in exile. Recent political violence in Northern Mali forced the band to relocate from the Sahara to the Mojave to record Emmaar. The result is heavy, electric, and urgent–a piercing lament for the “tenere,” their desert home. (buy)


Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers: Under the Hiss Golden Messenger banner, songwriter M.C. Taylor has committed to tape one of the most affecting and emotionally resonant catalogs of the 2010s. Lateness of Dancers, named for a Eudora Welty story, might be his most generous LP yet, tender, open, and deeply funky. There are strains of the Band, J.J. Cale, and Van Morrison in the grooves of songs like “Lucia,” “I’m a Raven (Shake Children)” and “Black Dog Wind,” but Taylor and company (fine company, it should be noted, including members of Megafaun, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig of Mountain Man, guitarist William Tyler, and Scott Hirsch) do more than emulate; they synthesize funk, reggae, American blues and folk, creating a sumptuous vehicle for Taylor’s humanistic musings, his reflections on duty, on family, and digging deep for any salvation that can be scrounged up. (buy)

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music: Sturgill Simpson doesn’t want to “save country music,” and he doesn’t want to burn the Music Row establishment to the ground. He doesn’t want to drop acid with you, man, and he doesn’t want to lecture you about sobriety. Sturgill Simpson just wants to sing about love. Love is the theme of Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, the Kentucky-born songwriter sings about quiet love and also cosmic spiraling love, about finding transcendence in family and raising hell. It’s a twangy honky tonk record that occasionally sets off for outer space, and every sentiment reads like Simpson carved it into old, sturdy wood. (buy)

Joan Shelley – Electric Ursa: There’s very little flash to Joan Shelley’s Electric Ursa, but you don’t need flash when you’ve got songs this good. The Kentucky singer-songwriter is armed with a plaintive voice, quietly powerful lyrics and a group of backing musicians who know how to add sensitive and restrained color to the proceedings. An understated gem that sounds better and better with each spin. (buy)


Ryley Walker – All Kinds of You: You could probably convince someone that Ryley Walker’s debut long player is the work of some long-lost UK singer-songwriter from the 1970s — think John Martyn or Bert Jansch. But Walker is actually a 20-something fella from Chicago. Lucky us. The album is a beauty. Far from being a mere pastiche artist, Walker really inhabits these songs and the sound that accompanies them. (buy)

Songs: Ohia – Didn’t It Rain (Reissue): In 1996, Chris and Ben Swanson’s upstart label Secretly Canadian issued the One Pronunciation of Glory 7” and made Jason Molina a recording artist. Six years later, the brothers released Didn’t It Rain, a masterpiece tour of darkness and despair lit only by the light of Molina’s lantern and that ever-present Blue Chicago Moon. This month’s reissue would be essential in any context, but with the gray having already claimed its space over Molina’s midwest, it almost sounds like Didn’t It Rain was pulled straight from the sky. (buy)

Strand of Oaks – HEAL: Tim Showalter seems to have learned something that most of us don’t spend enough time thinking about: Back when we were growing up, that struggle with our sense of self against reliance on others – fighting to work through it alone while still needing so much – that thing never goes away. It’s 16 years old and 35 years old and 50. So smartly communicated through his own past, in “Goshen ‘97,” and in “JM” – a story about Jason Molina. This is big, bold rock music, even when it’s quiet. (buy)


Bessie Jones with the Georgia Sea Island Singers – Get In Union: In a word: stunning. These performances, captured by Alan Lomax between 1959 and 1966, are primarily a capella, but they are easily among the most powerful and moving recordings I’ve ever heard. Compiled by Lomax scholar/guitarist Nathan Salsburg, this gospel-folk gem might just restore your faith in humanity. It’s that good. (buy)

When I Reach that Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel 1926-1936: Assembled lovingly by collector Christopher King and culled him from his collection of 78s, When I Reach That Heavenly Shore is another essential collection of gospel music from the crew at Tompkins Square. Concerned chiefly with eternal salvation, the artists here take wonderfully odd paths on the way there. Along with standard shouts of praise like the McCollum’s Sanctified Singers singing “Glory! Glory! Hallelujah,” there are stranger messages: Rev. J.M. Gates preaches of a “Dead Cat On The Line”; Rev. A.W. Nix warns of “Going To Hell & Who Cares.” All aim to glorify God, praising heavenly grace and speaking in intimate, corporal language. Mother McCollum sings “I Want to See Him” and it’s easy to believe that now she does. (buy)

Alexis Zoumbas – A Lament for Epirus, 1926 -1928: Haunting violin music that riffs on the ancient folk styles of Northwestern Greece. Alexis Zoumbas immigrated to NYC in 1910 and recorded his virtuosic, quasi-improvised tunes as a foreigner, accompanied by only a droning, bowed double bass. These ultra obscure recordings were compiled by 78-rpm obsessive Christopher King, who dug deep to demystify Zoumbas’ apocryphal bio. Plus, the LP’s cover portrait was penned by R. Crumb! (buy)


New Bums – Voices in a Rented Room: An equal partnership between Six Organs of Admittance’s Ben Chasny and Skygreen Leopards’ Donovan Quinn, New Bums’ debut full-length is an instant psych-folk classic, filled with woozy balladry, wicked humor and skeletal melodies. Nikki Sudden and Dave Kusworth would be proud. (buy)

Bonnie Prince Billy – Singers Grave a Sea of Tongues: Will Oldham’s output is prolific, his identity fluid. The material on Singer’s Grave is mostly culled from his 2011 LP Wolfroy Goes to Town. That record’s mercurial spirit is wrangled: the songs are shorter, melodies more focused, the arrangements are both full-bodied and crisp. Recorded with producer Mark Nevers in Nashville, Oldham dresses songs like “We Are Unhappy” and “It’s Time to Be Clear” with fine adornment, tapping a well into Nashville’s deep-flowing foundation of country and western, gospel, and stately popular music. It is an unassuming but remarkable record – a document as much concerned with warmth as inscrutability. (buy)

Ned Doheny – Separate Oceans: Utterly smooth. This collection of Ned Doheny recordings – demos, alternate takes, and songs from his in-and-out of print LPs — is pop music for the unconcerned. Luxurious and melodic at every turn, Doheny navigates funk turns, mellow jazz textures, cheeky R&B and folk rock with a cast of stars including Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Steve Cropper of the MGs, members of the Eagles, Tower of Power, and Average White Band, but they never steal the spotlight from Doheny, who maintains an impeccable grace even on the collection’s rawest tracks. (buy)


Eno • Hyde – High Life: High Life is the second record Brian Eno and Underworld’s Karl Hyde put out together in 2014, and like the blurred favelas and (sic)-spaced Ghanaian title, it both appropriates and reshapes cultures that are very much not its creators’ own. Standout “DBF” shuffles over a heavily chopped West African guitar, while opener “Return” drones its two chords through heady delay and heavy reverb before swiftly transitioning into a breezy shuffle exactly halfway through its nine minutes. Even the chilly monotones of closer “Cells and Bells” manage to scrape up some dust from a dank chapel floor, making High Life one of the most well-textured records of the year. (buy)

Jordan De La Sierra – Gymnosphere: Song of the Rose: Context can help enjoy the spacemusic of Gymnosphere: Song of the Rose, which was recorded by Jordan De La Sierra, a student of Terry Riley, and released by a small Bay Area label in truncated form in 1977, but the extra information is not required to experience the album’s sensory-enveloping stillness. This version of the record is as expansive as De La Sierra intended, released by Numero Group under the guidance of Stephen Hill of long running New Age radio program Hearts in Space, and it requires only a little patience and a quiet room to work its magic. Waves of reverberating piano echo, blurring the lines between classical, ambient, and avant-garde. These are pure sounds. (buy)

Noura Mint Seymali – Tzenni: Descended from a long line of Moorish griots, Noura Mint Seymali’s music interprets traditional sounds with heavy, rock-band grooves. Noura’s vocal prowess and range is breathtaking and she is a master of the ardine–a 9 stringed harp-like instrument. Psyched-out counterpoint is provided by her husband Jeiche Ould Chighaly who approximates the tidinit on wah-wah guitar. Tzenni is her first record to be released outside of Mauritania and it is a tour de force. (buy)


Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal: All it took was a single chord and four minutes of articulate ennui. Even if it had consisted only of its title track, the followup to 2012’s Light Up Gold would have been an instant classic. But the Brooklyn quartet have quietly expanded their palette of sound to include slow-burning love songs, minimalist honk, Delta-driven diatribes, and a Schoenberg-referencing song about being annoyed with the effects of their own success. These dudes paint the blues with a Xerox machine and a dog-eared copy of Maximumrocknroll. (buy)

Parkay Quartz – Content Nausea: The concept of “content nausea” should resonate with anyone who’s felt shackled to the PC, screen burning out the retinas. Andrew Savage articulates punk rock into a dry vernacular that sounds present, complex… for real. The band’s sound is angular, incisive, and immediate. Content Nausea contains two masterpieces that truly elevate the record: the lamenting, insurgent title track feels vital, while “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth” is a grisly, timeless murder ballad with a very contemporary gravity. (buy)

Quilt – Held in Splendor: Maybe when Quilt named the album, they were describing its sound. More mature – and significantly better – that their self-titled debut, Held in Splendor is more ornate, more psych, more 1967 than 1966. Though the psych-folk tossback trend of the last few years leaves mixed results (and source material that’s hard to outshine), Quilt has more firmly established their sound within the genre. Identity is everything when leaning so heavily on influence, and Quilt has found theirs. (buy)


Damien Jurado – Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son: Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son sounds a bit like a cult. The cover looks a bit like the home of one, too. Even song names sound like cult members: Silver Timothy, Silver Donna, Silver Malcolm, Silver Katherine and Silver Joy. And maybe that’s a start for describing this, Damien Jurado’s third effort with Richard Swift. It’s lightly tethered to reality, while searching for new opportunities just beyond reality’s realm. Eternal Son feels like last year’s Maraqopa dialed back a bit. Less assertive instrumentation, for a more tripped out, ethereal folk. Standout is the lounge-y cult leader “Silver Timothy.” (buy)

Robert Lester Folsom – Music And Dreams / Ode To A Rainy Day: Archives 1972-1975: Anthology Records dug up the recordings of this Georgia-native outsider artist and, while originally from the 70’s, this stuff is right on time in 2014. Music and Dreams was Folsom’s 1976 private press psychedelic folk record. Spacey synths, an art-pop sensibility and Folsom’s soft rock vocals combine for a fascinating listen. Ode to A Rainy Day contains earlier, more-stripped down recordings, but moments like the flute solo on “Lovels” and the shaggy Americana charm of “See You Later, I’m Gone” make this record an equally interesting listen. Like an entire record made up of Neil Young’s “Will to Love” vibe. (buy)

Mike Cooper – Places I Know/The Machine Gun/Trout Steel: NC based label Paradise of Bachelors brings adventurous multi-instrumentalist Mike Cooper into a much-deserved spotlight with this series of reissues from the early 1970s. Ranging from Dylan-esque excursions to wild free jazz/rock fusions, Cooper’s music climbs from peak to peak. (buy)


Protomartyr – Under Color of Official Right: A partial list of those who should be thrown from the Tarpeian Rock, per Protomartyr’s Joe Casey: Greedy bastards, rank amateur professionals, alt-weekly types, internet risottos, smug urban settlers, adults dressed as children, credit-card users, most bands ever. Not included: Mark E. Smith, Gang of Four, Steve Yzerman. On the fence, per album standout “Ain’t So Simple”: Protomartyr’s Greg Ahee, Alex Leonard, and Scott Davidson. Seems about right. (buy)

The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream: Getting lost in the throwback and dad-rock references does a disservice to the anxiety and self-consumed emotion of Lost in the Dream, a product so clearly wrapped in the mood today. All unrelenting drums, poured-over keys, unfettered guitar folded within The War On Drugs’ synthesized haze and shimmery fog, it’s the songwriting – and astute editing – that makes this their most palpable emotional presence to date. Lost in the Dream is all sky above and road ahead and no direction to go but everywhere. (buy)

Elisa Ambrogio – The Immoralist: Just because you’re in a no-wave band doesn’t mean you can’t break hearts. The Magik Markers frontwoman slayed all softies on her solo debut, with the opening one-two of “Superstitious” and “Reservoir” staring into sincerity and refusing to blink. Then she tamed her own wild guitars and put them in service of stark character portraits and frozen-moment vignettes that make friends of Kim Gordon and Neko Case. (buy)


Kevin Morby – Still Life: Former Woods bassist and songwriter/guitarist of The Babies, Kevin Morby surprised everyone last year with a stunning solo debut, Harlem River. Capitalizing on that momentum, Morby wasted no time releasing its follow-up, Still Life, a coastal gem of ragged folk-rock. Morby showed a brilliant capacity for songwriting with Harlem River’s title track and has matched that greatness with this year’s “Parade,” a moment of pure pop perfection. (buy)

Ultimate Painting – Ultimate Painting: The latest in qualifiers of the statement that The Velvet Underground were the best and most influential band of all time, Ultimate Painting meets James Hoare of Veronica Falls and Jack Cooper of Mazes for a syrupy dose of late 70’s New York-inspired post punk. These dudes have quickly joined the ranks of Courtney Barnett and Parquet Courts in this current and potent wave of brainy but sauntering rock ‘n roll. What sets Ultimate Painting apart is their penchant for more grooving, baroque-leaning psych (see: “Riverside”) and droning, dreamy pop which makes them more akin to VU than the two aforementioned acts (see: “She’s A Bomb”). (buy)

Viet Cong – Cassette: A Calgary quartet made up of former Women band mates Matt Flegel and Mike Wallace, as well as guitarists Monty Munro and Danny Christiansen, Viet Cong exude shadows of their former incarnation – a certain spooky, claustrophobic, gloominess – but the band has also expanded into new sonic territories. Cassette kicks off in full-force, with the confident and wiry “Throw It Away.” (Echoes of Television’s self-assured debut). Waves of lo-fi psychedelic pop permeate throughout this record, but “Structureless Design” locks into in industrial groove and a propulsive drum-led séance. Shapeless, yes, but this band is not without direction or focus. Look out for their Jagjaguwar debut next year. (buy)

Michael Hurley

Travel country roads from Pennsylvania to Portland with Doc Snock and listen as he and his fellow Rounders take you on a long journey defying the limits of folk, transcending all previous interpretations of Americana music. Alternately titled: Rollin’ with Thorne Huber (aka Harry Hubcaps).

Michael Hurley: A Companion Piece


Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice, every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 368: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Steve Gunn – Way Out Weather  ++ Bob Dylan – The Man In Me ++ Nancy Sinatra / w Hal Blaine – Drummer Man ++ Michael Kiwanuka – I Need Your Company ++ Sandy Denny – Crazy Lady Blues ++ The Rolling Stones – Downtown Suzie ++ Harry Nilsson – Many Rivers To Cross ++ The Ansley Dunbar Retaliation – Watch ’n Chain ++ Odetta – Baby, I’m In The Mood For You ++ Scott Walker – 30 Century Man ++ Chuck Berry – Oh, Louisiana ++ Salt – Hung Up ++ Nina Simone – Save Me ++ Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons – You’re A Song (That I Can’t Sing) ++ Arthur Lee – Everybody’s Got To Live ++ The Beach Boys – The Warmth of The Sun ++ Francoise Hardy – Till The Morning Comes ++ Cass McCombs – Dreams Come True Girl ++ Kevin Morby – Reign ++ Margo Guryan – Sunday Morning ++ Glen Campbell – Guess I’m Dumb ++ The Kinks – Supersonic Rocket Ship ++ Dutch Rhythm, Steel & Show Band – Down By The River ++ The Shangri-Las – It’s Easier To Cry++ Nico – Sixty Forty (Icon version) ++ Bob Dylan – Seven Curses ++ Richard & Linda Thompson – I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight ++ The Blue Things – High Life ++ Arzachel – Queen St. Gang ++ Alton Ellis – Whiter Shade of Pale ++ The Graham Bond Organization – Early In The Morning ++ The Shadows – Scotch On The Socks ++ Crazy Horse – Dirty Dirty ++ Dion – Baby, Let’s Stick Together ++ T. Rex – Lean Woman Blues ++ Flo & Eddie – I Been Born Again ++ Vic Chesnutt & Liz Durrett – Somewhere

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.


Vic Chesnutt left us five years ago in December of 2009. We’re still listening.

Vic Chesnutt w/ Liz Durrett :: Somewhere