October 28th sees the release of my first feature film, Shangri-La Suite. It tells the story of two lovers-on-the-run during the summer of 1974. Their names: Jack Blueblood and Karen Bird. Their aim: to kill Elvis Presley. It stars Emily Browning, Luke Grimes, Avan Jogia and Ron Livingston (as the King). Burt Reynolds narrates. The trailer can be seen here. Justin Gage, the man behind Aquarium Drunkard (and my good friend), served as the project’s music supervisor. Justin has been kind enough to offer me a platform here, leading up to the film’s release, where I can write about some of the artists and tracks that inspired our movie and helped shape its creation.

Roy Hamilton :: Hurt

Roy Hamilton’s original recording of “Hurt,” written by Jimmie Crane and Al Jacobs, is the kind of song you’ve heard a million times before. A fine fifties ballad sung with restraint and class. Saccharine; unremarkable. It fails to leave much of an impression, especially when compared to the weight of superior, mid-tempo tearjerkers recorded in that era.

Timi Yuro :: Hurt

Timi Yuro’s version of “Hurt,” however, is a revelation, and with good reason, the more famous of the two early recordings.  Recorded in 1961, seven years after the original, Yuro’s interpretation is lightyears wiser than the source material. Where Hamilton’s is stuffy, old-fashioned, spooky; Yuro’s is soulful, turbulent and timeless. The lyrics, clichéd and forgettable in the original recording, sound confident and clear when sung by Yuro. From the moment she belts out that defiant first cry  — the word ‘I’ — she commands your attention and sustains it with ease.

Elvis Presley :: Hurt

Elvis Presley recorded “Hurt” in 1976, a year before his death, and it perfectly encapsulates the sorrow of his later-life (which is how it eventually found its way into our film’s soundtrack). Though not as immediately powerful, Presley’s take on “Hurt” shares Yuro’s sense of authority and experience; it’s raw pain. And while the King’s cut suffers from some unfortunate mid-seventies studio-cheese, the soul in Presley’s voice — after all those years; near the end — is still plain and undeniable and unparalleled. The fact that his pipes were in such good condition that close to his death is remarkable. The dude meant every word that he sang, even up until the last year of his life.

We couldn’t afford to license Presley’s version of “Hurt,” and so it’s Yuro’s interpretation that soundtracks Shangri-La Suite’s climax — when Jack and Elvis finally come face to face. It’s my favorite needle drop in the movie and the song I’m most excited to reintroduce to the world when the film comes out later this month. words / eddie o’keefe

Previously: Link Wray :: Girl From The North Country


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. Danger Mouse is the selector, sitting in with Justin, DJing the full two hours of the AD show this week.

SIRIUS 450: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Curtis Knight w/ Jimi Hendrix – Happy Birthday ++ Indian Jewelry – Hello Africa ++ John Cale – Gideon’s Bible ++ Margo Guryan – California Shake ++ Apache Sun – Club Noir ++ Jungle – Slave Ship ++ Gene Clark – Strength of Strings ++ Wand – Melted Rope ++ Chrysalis – Piece of Sun ++ Chocolat – Burn Out ++ Death & Vanilla – The Optic Nerve ++ Bike – Enigma Do Dente Falso ++ Big Search – Distant Shore ++ PRO – Blacky Joe ++ The Gods – Baby’s Rich ++ Billy Nicholls – Brings Me Down ++ Maybird – Big Sun Explosion ++ The Field – Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime ++ Maus Haus – You Made My Radar ++ Sam Cohen – Pretty Lights ++ The Babe Rainbow – Planet Junior ++ Wampire – Wizard Staff ++ Octopus – The River ++ Morgan Delt – Barbarian Kings ++ Damon – Song of A Gypsy ++ Beyond The Wizards Sleeve – Creation ++ Kaleidoscope – Let Me Try ++ The Churchills – Comics ++ Michael Holman & GQ Jimmie Jaz – Graffiti Rock ++ Afrique – Kissing My Love

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

September 9th saw the return of Okkervil River via their first LP in three years, Away, a record principal Will Sheff has described as “me taking my life back to zero and starting to add it all back up again.”

Below, we are screening the group’s performance at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust recorded this past July. “I wanted to get together with a lot of the musicians who recorded Away and play these songs all together live in New York once before the record came out”, notes Sheff. “I wrote the set based around vinyl sides, and divided it into A, B, and C. In between, we played some old songs… it was nice to get together in this beautiful Brooklyn performance space and just play the whole thing through before all the touring got underway.” The occasion marks the sole performance with the members of yMusic and the orchestra, and was the first time the group played the album in full. If you’re local, the group touch down in Los Angeles on October 4th at The Teragram ballroom.

Kraftwerk just wrapped up their American tour earlier this month in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Bowl. The group’s next performances begin early next month in Europe, via an eight night residency at the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain. Each evening’s performance will be dedicated to a singular album, beginning with Autobahn (1974) on October 7th and ending with Tour de France Soundtracks (2003) on the 14th.

The above video, recorded in Soest, Germany in 1970, is reportedly the group’s first performance and earliest known footage. In 2014 Electronic Beats shared Dimitri Hegemann’s (founder of Berlin’s Tresor club) insight and recollections of the performance, which he attended at 16. A must-read companion to the set’s footage.


As a producer, Daniel Lanois has been instrumental in crafting definitive records by U2, the Neville Brothers, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young, and more. His productions have a trademark quality — swampy and percussive, psychedelic but as earthy as the dubs of his noted influence Lee “Scratch” Perry — that he also brings to his records as a songwriter and composer. His latest, Goodbye to Language, out now on Anti Records, is one of his best. Accompanied by Rocco DeLuca on lap steel, Lanois plays pedal steel, creating a sweeping landscape that spiritually connects to the sounds he contributed to Brian Eno 1983 ambient masterpiece Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks.

We joined Lanois following a live performance at his place, Bella Vista in Silver Lake, to discuss the new record, his long production career, and his definition of “soul music,” exploring how that definition guides and directs his artistic approach.

Transmissions Podcast :: Daniel Lanois

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After a few months of rumors, Sony has finally announced another massive Bob Dylan box set — The 1966 Live Recordings. Weighing in at 36 (!) discs, it collects every known recording of Dylan’s confrontational 1966 tour of Australia and the UK (along with a handful of audience tapes from the US) with the Hawks, who were soon to morph into The Band. Overkill? Sure. But obsessives (guilty as charged) will love trawling through these tapes, many of which have never been bootlegged, savoring every Dylan inflection, every Garth Hudson organ fill, every slashing Robbie Robertson solo. It’s some of the most powerful rock and roll ever made.

With such a wealth of live ’66 recordings on the way soon, it’s easy to forget that for decades, the only official evidence of this epochal tour was a Liverpool performance of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” tucked away on the b-side of the “I Want You” seven-inch. Released just a few weeks after the concert itself, it’s easy to see why it sent Dylanologists on a mad hunt to dig up any and all recordings from 1966. Revisit it for a taste of the glories to come, as Dylan and the Hawks roar through the tune, making its Highway 61 Revisited studio counterpart sound like a pleasure cruise in comparison. words / t wilcox

Dylan & The Hawks :: Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (Liverpool, 1966)

dbt_americanband_coverThis Friday, September 30th will see the release of the eleventh studio album by the Drive-by Truckers. American Band is a tight, dark album comprised of the type of songwriting that Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley have excelled at for years – specific stories that explore and reverberate through universal ideas. While the band has often examined political and social ideas freely via individual songs, American Band marks the first time Drive-by Truckers have explored and documented these ideas an album length statement. Aquarium Drunkard talked with Hood and Cooley separately by phone about the new album, what it means to make an entire record like this, the troubles of getting an album on to a single LP, and why we just need to love each other, motherfuckers.

Aquarium Drunkard: One of the biggest notes about this album ahead of time is that American Band is a pretty explicitly political record. You guys have written political songs before – “Putting People On the Moon” for instance – but it’s never dominated an album the way they do here. Was there any hesitation on your part in approaching a record in that capacity?

Patterson Hood: I’ve always thought of our music and our songs as political. I was kind of taken aback by how many people seem shocked by the political nature of this record because I’ve always felt that way about our music. Especially “Putting People On the Moon.” At the time that came out, it really polarized a lot of people. When we were touring behind The Dirty South – which was at the height of the 2004 Bush-Kerry election – there were people really irate about that song every night. Every single night we had people shooting us birds and yelling shit at us when we played that song. And then it just went away. We kept playing the song and people stopped reacting that way. I don’t know if those people just left, or just got used to it, or if the election was over and they moved on. I don’t know. I never even questioned it. I just noticed it.

Mike Cooley: I wasn’t too worried about it. I figured we’d lose a few people, but I’ve never been worried about getting Dixie Chick’d. We never had a huge country radio, right wing audience anyway. And the threatening comments that are bound to come, I’m not worried about those either, but you can’t write those songs, you can’t pay enough attention to that subject matter without knowing how people might feel about it.

PH: And there’s always been that aspect. “The Living Bubba” – even though the lyrics say “I’ve never had much use for politics” – I’ve always considered that to be a political song. The fact that people were still dying of AIDS in 1996, 15 years into the crisis and 20 years into the disease itself – people were still dying; especially people who didn’t have the money for the best health care. I’ve always considered all of that part of what we do.

I guess the big difference with this record isn’t how political it is, but the lens it’s shot through, to put it in movie terms. I’m always using the parallel to the movie Chinatown which is one of my all-time favorite films. It was such a product of its time. It was all about the social and political mores of the early-to-mid 70s and yet it was set in the 30s. We’ve always done that with our work – we’ve done a lot of period pieces, which has never been en vogue in rock and roll, yet we’ve always delved into that. “Putting People On the Moon” which we put out 12 years ago was set in the 80s, even though I considered it more than timely in 2004 during that presidential season. That song talked about Reagan, it talked about political decisions made in the Reagan era that were still affecting people in 2004 and 2016. Likewise, Southern Rock Opera, which was set in the time of my coming of age – in the 70s against the backdrop of the rise-and-fall of arena rock and Watergate and [George] Wallace and the post-Civil Rights South – to me, that was still relevant when we wrote it which was now 20 years ago. That record and this record have a lot in common even though they’re musically world’s apart to be from the same band. There’s a lot we were talking about on that record that we’re still talking about with this album, just maybe in a more grown-up way.

fa“High vibrations … Transformations … Let’s go higher.” These are among the opening words of Family Atlantica’s Soundways release Cosmic Unity, the second such offering from the London-based ensemble with roots in Africa and Venezuela. Such is the group’s nature: a heady and eclectic brew of latin funk, calypso, African highlife, and even Ethiopian jazz (the Mulatu Astatke-vibes on “Enjera” are unmistakable, and come as no surprise, as the man himself appeared on the group’s self-titled debut). This go-round features contributions from Sun Ra Arkestra’s Marshall Allen on alto saxophone, electronic winds and vocals, and Nigeria’s Orlando Julius on tenor sax.

With that pedigree, soaring horns, meditative vibraphone, fierce polyrhythms, wah-wah guitar, blues vamps and afro-funk chants (some sung, some spoken word) all meld together in seamless, cosmic unity. As a whole the record cuts a dense, tropical swath stretching across fifteen tracks (some coming in at just under a minute) — a “vast web of diverse musical styles…a sonic kaleidoscope…united by an echoing resonance of Africa,” as bandleader Jack Yglesias puts it. Fast paced energy, political undertones and vibrant diversity lend this record an almost psychedelic quality, and a timeless one at that.  words / c depasquale

Family Atlantica :: Okoroba


John Coltrane would’ve turned 90 today, and even though he passed on all the way back in 1967, the music he made still reverberates with a power and clarity that refuses to be dimmed by age. His work has been pored over endlessly by listeners and scholars, but there are still countless gems to be found or re-discovered. Case in point, this hazy 1962 rendition of “Naima,” performed with his mighty quartet (McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Jimmy Garrison) in Paris. The recording is pretty far from hi-fi, but Coltrane easily cuts through the murk. “Naima” boasts one of the saxophonist’s prettiest melodies, but as with almost everything he did, Coltrane plays it restlessly, exploring every contour, discovering the tune as it unfolds, heading towards its gentle climax. Ascension achieved.  words / t wilcox

The John Coltrane Quartet :: Naima (Paris, 1962)