Guest Playlist: Eugene S. Robinson’s top 10 songs to accompany surrender

Oxbow: King of the JewsOxbow: King of the Jews (Reissue) (Hydra Head, 5/10/11)

Oxbow: “Daughter”

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With his band OxbowEugene S. Robinson has become known for his simple, primal lyrics howled over increasingly complex arrangements, and for his fearsome live performances. The band’s most recent studio album, The Narcotic Story, was released in 2007. More recently, its second full-length, King of the Jews (released way back in ’91), was reissued this year on Hydra Head. Though the band’s avant-punk music is aggressive, and Robinson’s vocals powerful and howling, even they need dial things back and unwind with a little quietude once in a while.

Music to Put the Gun Down to

The world is sometimes a hectic place. People running back and forth, screaming, diving under cars. All of this modern hubbub and these frenetic and shouted cries to “put the gun down” will sometimes just drive you crazy. And so, as a tonic or a salve to the savage soul, Oxbow’s Eugene S. Robinson suggests 10 songs that go well with surrender. Enjoy.

1. Johnny Mathis: “Open Fire” from Open Fire, Two Guitars

Jesus Christ, this is just a great stocking-feet, throw-pillow paean to fine “bachelor” living. In front of a fireplace. With a glass of sherry.

2. Johnny Hartman: “The Day the World Stopped Turning” from The Voice That Is

Listened to this record once for a week straight. Without leaving the bed. That says it all.


Guest Playlist: Serengeti

Serengeti: Friends and FamilySerengetiFamily and Friends (Anticon, 7/19/11)

Serengeti: “Ha-Ha” (f. Otouto)

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Native Chicagoan rapper Serengeti, a.k.a. David Cohn, has built a small but rabid following thanks to a unique, occasionally farcical style and a tireless work ethic. His latest album, entitled Family and Friends (out now on Anticon), enlists some notable producers: Yoni Wolf of Why? and Owen Ashworth of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. The result is a hop-hop album free of undue posturing — operative beats stripped of excess ornament, a rapid, clear cadence — that captures the oft-neglected storytelling aspect of rhyming.

As his unorthodox sound suggests, Serengeti’s musical background is littered with non-rap milestones. And, as many of us can relate, his early musical education was composed of the stuff his parents played in the car and at home. We had him compile a playlist of such tunes. Without further ado:

Songs My Parents Liked That Stuck With Me
by Serengeti

Father and mother and I recently drove to NYC from Chicago. I was the first time I was in the same car as both of them in about 30 years. We listened to these songs a lot. I knew them all; it was great.

1. My parents split when I was very young. Mother would pick me up some weekends, and she’d always play this Mabel Mercer song, “Did you Ever Cross Over to Sneden’s.” Great song about longing to live on the other side. Alec Wilder wrote the tune.

“Did you ever cross over to Sneden’s / Where the white houses cling to the hill? / Did you ever cross over to Sneden’s? / Do you think that you ever will?”

2. Carmen McRae: “I’m Coming Home Again”

“The poets cried for dreams they never saw / The only certainty is nothing’s sure / And most things stay the same / Or go back where they came”

Written By Carole Sager and Bruce Roberts. Her voice is my favorite.

Viva Voce

Guest Playlist: Viva Voce’s songs for the apocalypse

Viva Voce: The Future Will Destroy YouViva Voce: The Future Will Destroy You (Vanguard, 6/21/11)

Viva Voce: “Analog Woodland Song”

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Kevin and Anita Robinson comprise Portland, Oregon-based rock-n-roll band Viva Voce. The married couple has released six full-length albums since the late ’90s, the latest of which is called The Future Will Destroy You. With Kevin hammering the drums with machine-like precision and Anita producing catchy hooks and riffs with classic-rock cool, it’s a surprisingly lighthearted sound for such a foreboding title. The band’s sticking by its claim, though, and recently compiled this apocalyptic playlist for ALARM.

1. The Stooges: “Search & Destroy”

I’m a streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm. ‘Nuff said.

William Elliott Whitmore

Guest Playlist: William Elliott Whitmore’s top anti-war songs

William Elliott Whitmore: Field SongsWilliam Elliott Whitmore: Field Songs (Anti-, 7/12/11)

William Elliott Whitmore: “Everything Gets Gone”

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Folk songwriter William Elliott Whitmore graced the cover of ALARM 35 back in 2009, right after he had made the jump to Anti- (read story here). At the time, he was promoting his new album, Animals in the Dark, which saw his blues-infused creations bolstered by additions of pedal steel, organs, strings, and drums. Now, he’s set to release a new full-length, Field Songs, which speaks to a uniquely American experience. Never one to hide his political beliefs, Whitmore was kind enough to share with us 10 of his favorite anti-war songs.

10 Anti-War Songs
by William Elliott Whitmore

1.  Operation Ivy: “Unity”

A bit of protest from the Bay Area’s premier ska outfit.

Memory Tapes

Guest Playlist: Memory Tapes’ songs to drink and resent people to

Memory Tapes: Player PianoMemory Tapes: Player Piano (Carpark, 7/5/11)

Memory Tapes: “Wait in the Dark”

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On July 5, New Jersey-based multi-instrumentalist Dayve Hawk, better known as Memory Tapes,will release Player Piano, the follow-up to his 2010 debut, Seek Magic. Like his first album, Hawk once again recorded in his home studio, playing each instrument himself, without the aid of sequencing software. With its doo-wop harmonies and synth-soul intersections, Hawk described Player Piano as “a sort of Motown suicide note.” A little dark, a little humorous — just like his playlist for ALARM: a musical exploration of inebriation and indignation.

Songs to Drink and Resent People To
by Memory Tapes

1. Chris Bell: “I Am The Cosmos”

This is where it starts…arrogance and self-doubt.

Junior Boys

Guest Playlist: Junior Boys’ musical motivation

Junior Boys: It's All TrueJunior Boys: It’s All True (Domino, 6/14/11)

Junior Boys: “ep”

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With a new full-length, It’s All True, out today on Domino, Canadian electronic duo Junior Boys takes another trip down the sultry, synth-studded path that it deftly paved on previous albums. What better way to get a sense of how the band arrived at its signature sound than to examine the music that inspired it? We asked Jeremy Greenspan to put together a 10-track playlist of his favorite songs. He did us one better, coming through with 11 songs ranging from soulful to skittering and timeless to Top 40.

1. Blawan: “Bohla”

It’s super exciting to be buying so many R&S records again.


Guest Playlist: Neurosis’ most vital predecessors

Neurosis: Souls at Zero (Reissue)Neurosis: Souls at Zero (Reissue) (Neurot, 2/15/11)

Neurosis: “To Crawl Under One’s Skin”

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Earlier this year, pioneering sludge-metal band Neurosis reissued its third studio album, Souls at Zero, on its own label, Neurot. Though it sounds just as fresh today, it has been nearly 20 years since that influential mixture of heavy grooves, diverse folk instrumentation, and mammoth metal riffs first cropped up. We asked frontman Steve Von Till to compile a playlist for us, and he came up with 11 bands that were instrumental in Neurosis’ formation and development.

Bands Integral to the Origin of Neurosis
by Steve Von Till of Neurosis

This playlist may contain the secrets to the origin of thousands of bands who became inspired to give it all.

1. Joy Division: “New Dawn Fades”

The driving bass. The melodic yet primitive guitar. The empty and bleak space as large as the riff. The words, “Me, seeing me this time, hoping for something else.” The emotions left behind.

This Will Destroy You

Guest Playlist: This Will Destroy You’s Shining Void Mix

This Will Destroy You: Tunnel BlanketThis Will Destroy You: Tunnel Blanket (Suicide Squeeze, 5/10/11)

This Will Destroy You: “Communal Blood”

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Instrumental-rock quartet This Will Destroy You coined a new term to describe the music on its latest album, Tunnel Blanket: “doomgaze.” It’s remarkably apt — the sort of evocative portmanteau that makes music writers everywhere drool — as TWDY’s dense, slow-burning, guitar-driven tunes typically skip past melodramatic meandering and head straight for Boris-like levels of sonic density. We asked the band’s guitarist, Chris King, to make us a playlist, and the doom-gazer dropped this Shining Void on us.

Shining Void Mix
by This Will Destroy You

“Then came human beings. They wanted to cling but had nothing to cling to.”

1. Colleen: “This Place in Time”

Beautiful 18th Century funeral parlour music.


Guest Playlist: Hauschka’s experimental acoustics

Hauschka: Salon des AmateursHauschka: Salon des Amateurs (FatCat, 4/12/11)

Hauschka: “Radar”

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Volker Bertelmann, better known under his stage name, Hauschka, follows in the footsteps of experimental composers John Cage and Erik Satie, experimenting with prepared piano sounds. Bertelmann, who is based in Düsseldorf, Germany, manipulates traditional piano sounds by affixing different objects to the instrument’s inner workings. The resultant sound is one of surprising flexibility, as Bertelmann MacGyvers his way into a world of original sounds and unexplored sonic terrain. Here, he shares a playlist of his favorite experimental, acoustic tunes.

Experimental Music with Acoustic Sound Sources
by Volker Bertelmann

1. NSI: “Track #15” from NSI plays Non Standards

This track is a wonderful example of processing the piano sounds to get into a dark tone area. I like the modulation inside.

Alela Diane

Guest Playlist: Alela Diane’s songs to pack a suitcase to

Alela Diane: Wild DivineAlela Diane: Alela Diane & Wild Divine (Rough Trade, 4/5/11)

Alela Diane: “To Begin”

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On “Pieces of String,” a track from Alela Diane‘s 2004 record, The Pirate’s Gospel, she sings, “If I had one, I’d play this on piano.” Consider it wishful thinking. Whereas her first few albums, including the self-released Gospel and Forest Parade, are characterized by spare, plucked guitar and airy harmonies about simpler times, Alela Diane‘s newest, Alela Diane & Wild Divine, stretches its legs with a greater sonic palette and higher production value. Despite the warmth and homeliness of her folk tunes, Diane’s a troubadour, and she’s got the playlist to prove it.

Songs to Pack a Suitcase to, with Anticipation for the Highway
by Alela Diane

1.  Fairport Convention: “Farewell, Farewell”

A song of goodbye.


Guest Playlist: Ponytail’s breezy springtime tunes

Ponytail: Do Whatever You Want All the TimePonytail: Do Whatever You Want All the Time (We Are Free, 4/12/11)

Ponytail: “Easy Peasy”

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After a brief hiatus in 2010, Baltimore art-rock band Ponytail released its third album, Do Whatever You Want All the Time, on longtime record label We Are Free. Its psychedelic artwork, created by Yamantaka Eye of Japanese rock band Boredoms, is matched by the band’s manic vocals and guitar-driven melodies.

In honor of the changing seasons, Ponytail guitarist Ken Seeno shows the band’s more chilled-out side with this ultra laid-back playlist.

A Warm Spring Breeze Blowing Through My Window
by Ken Seeno of Ponytail

1. The Revolutionaries: “Leftist”

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A deep, smooth, bouncy groove made by the masters of Channel One. All sway and smiles. Today is a good day.

Damon Locks

Guest Playlist: Damon Locks’ most truthful tunes

The Eternals: Approaching the Energy Field (Addenda, 2/15/11)

The Eternals: “War’s Blazing Disciples”

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Damon Locks — frontman for experimental dub-punk band The Eternals, former member of Trenchmouth, and part-time member of Exploding Star Orchestra — is an accomplished visual artist in addition to being an accomplished musician. For ALARM’s newest book, Chromatic, Locks curated a section of handmade mix-tape art. In addition, his sociopolitical mixed-media art is featured alongside a story that details his upbringing, influences, and guiding principles. Here, Locks compiles a playlist of tunes that he repeatedly turns to for inspiration.

The Uncompromising Art
by Damon Locks

I side with the ones that follow their hearts,
Not the ones making due rather than making art

These 10 tracks are tunes that inspire me to make work both visual and musical and to trust in the creative process. Upon every listen, these pieces always feel so kinetic and vital. The music business is now so savvy and marketing is so embedded into the processes of music-making that the impetus to make most music generally feels (and sounds) suspect. I wanted to put a list of tunes together whose intentions felt truthful and without an eye for its profitability.

1. Eddie Gale: “Song of Will”

A spiritual and uplifting female vocal chorus crescendos to reveal a cacophonous horn melody that punctuates and empowers.