Grails: “Wake-Up Drill II”
Tied together by a mutual appreciation of psychedelia, this split record by Portland’s Grails and Finland’s Pharaoh Overlord is a fitting introduction to each obscure group.
Last month ALARM presented its 50 favorite albums of 2012, an eclectic, rock-heavy selection of discs that were in steady rotation in our downtown-Chicago premises. Now, to give some love to tunes that were left out, we have our 50 (+5) favorite songs of last year — singles, B-sides, EP standouts, soundtrack cuts, and more.
True Widow: “Skull Eyes”
[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/04-Skull-Eyes.mp3|titles=True Widow: “Skull Eyes”]
Following the dissolution of his punk band Slowride, guitarist and vocalist Dan Phillips could have spent his two years living in Massachusetts solely focusing on his art and woodworking. But his creative expression didn’t limit itself to his small, New England quarters. After returning to Dallas, Texas, Phillips crafted a new brand of heavy, melodic material with the help of bassist and vocalist Nicole Estill and drummer Timothy (Slim) Starks, in the trio known as True Widow.
The stonegaze outfit is set to release its second album, As High as the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth, through Kemado Records at the end of next month. The new album merges heartfelt melodies that drip over distorted guitar chords with heavier rock interludes. Here, Philips explains his passion for visual art, True Widow’s approach to music, and the process of writing and recording deep in the Texan woods.
After the disbandment of your previous band, Slowride, you had a brief stay in Massachusetts where you trained in woodworking and some other forms of art. Can you describe a little about your move and your developments in painting, woods, and drawing?
I moved to Boston to go to the furniture-making program at The North Bennet Street School. It was a two-year program, and during those two years, that was all that I was concerned with. I spent every minute that I could at the school. The curriculum included several visits to museums and American furniture collections in New England. Being a person who draws and paints, I was very interested in the whole gamut of early American decorative arts — not only the furniture that I was there to see.
While immersed in research, I found myself exploring the themes and aesthetics of all of the art forms of colonial America up through the Federal period. Unconsciously, the influence of all of this stuff found its way into my drawings and paintings. My approach is simple: I like that; I want to make one too. The things I make are often based on or rooted in something that has existed before, or a variation of a theme — never a reproduction.
Das Racist occupies a unique place in hip hop. Its free-associative rap goes a mile a minute, riddled with the sort of postmodern deconstructionist lyrics that make publications like the New York Times rave. Much has been written about the group and its perceived seriousness, which, in turn, is turned into more fodder for Das Racist’s rhymes (as evidenced in the track “hahahaha jk,” posted below).
Whatever your opinion of its music, there’s no question that Das Racist wears its cultural and political awareness on its proverbial sleeve. With that in mind, we asked Ashok Kondabolu of the Brooklyn-based trio to name his favorite political rap songs.
Das Racist: “hahahaha jk” (Sit Down, Man, Mishka / Mad Decent / Greedhead)
1. Public Enemy: “Shut ‘Em Down” (Pete Rock Remix)
My favorite remix of all time. Pete’s short verse is ill (and sort of hilarious), and the beat’s insistence over and under Chuck D‘s screaming-ass voice is incredible. The clipped rapping on here serves really well as some “movement music.”
My mama cried
Black people died
When the other man lied”
I mean, that’s an awesome way to start a song about corporate redistribution of wealth!
With Marissa Nadler’s ethereal, reverb-soaked vocals and delicate demeanor, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the songwriter sprouting wings and flying away while playing her folky, vaguely psychedelic guitar melodies.