Thurston Moore is probably most notably known as the vocalist, guitarist and founder of Sonic Youth. Sonic Youth is one of the great cult bands of all time. Since Sonic Youth, Thurston Moore has done a lot of solo improvising as a musician. He was in town scoring the movie “Street” at the Oriental Theatre last Friday. Before that screening, we sat down and had a conversation.
Justin Barney: So what are you listening to right now?
Thurston Moore: I recently was putting out a record with my partner in London. I used to put out records quite a bit in the ’80s and ’90s and I cooled off for a while because it costs money to put records out, and I moved from the USA to the UK for the last seven years. I was more focused on doing music with musicians there, and to have a record label was something I didn’t have the time or coin for.
We saw a band called Big Joanie, these three British African girls. Amazing punk rock. They were opening for The Ex, the anarcho-punk band, and they were just so cool. We went to the merch table and said, “Can we buy your cassette or your CD or whatever? Oh no, we don’t have anything, We did record something but nobody will put it out.” So my girlfriend was like, “We’re gonna put it out.” I was like, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no,” even though I really loved it. Then, I was like, “No, this is good. This is the time to do it again.”
We put this record out and it got a lot of love. They’ve been playing a lot, they just supported Bikini Kill’s reunion gigs in London. That was really fun to put out, and it’s a great record. It’s a little self serving of me to talk about something that I put out, but that’s the record I’ve been listening to a lot lately.
Justin Barney: What do they do that captures your interest?
Thurston Moore: They are one of those bands that started on day one and wrote songs on day two, and then started playing live on day three.
You can never be that good, as when you are just beginning. You’re just touching your instruments and making these sounds. It’s so primal. There’s such an essence there that you can never do again, because you become — supposedly you become better at what you’re doing. I mean “better” in quotations. Sonic Youth is like that. You listen to the first things we did, and it’s like, “God, that was really cool.” We could never do that again because we became more sophisticated in what we were doing. You can try to copy it, but it’s always going to be different. You really are only new once, even though you can try to keep renewing and refreshing. You’re only really new that one time.
Britt Daniel picks “Reverie” by Karen O & Danger Mouse
My guest today is Britt Daniel, the lead singer of Spoon. Spoon is a band founded in Austin, Texas in 1993. They have released album after album and have had hit after hit. So many hits, in fact, that they have just released an album of greatest hits. It’s called “Everything Hits at Once: The Best of Spoon.” We are playing the new song from that album right now, called “No Bullets Spent.”
Justin Barney: Can we talk about what you’re listening to now? What is the last song you couldn’t stop listening to?
Britt Daniel: Have you listened to that Karen O & Danger Mouse record, “Lux Prima?” That’s probably my favorite record this year.
Justin Barney: Why is that your favorite album of the year?
Britt Daniel: It’s just the one that I’ve listened to the most. It has an emotional impact on me. I love that the record starts off in one direction, you think it’s going to be an ambient or spacey type record, and then after two songs it veers off and goes in this whole other direction. I love that about it. I don’t think people are making records like that anymore, where they are sequenced to surprise. It has some fantastic songs on there. These melodies seem like they’ve existed forever, I don’t know where they came from.
Justin Barney: “Sequenced to surprise.” I love that. With Danger Mouse, everything that he touches just clicks for him.
Britt Daniel: He knows what he’s doing. He’s a soulful guy.
Justin Barney: And with Karen O at the helm, too. You can’t mess that up.
Ben Jaffe of Preservation Hall Jazz Band picks “Straight to Hell” by The Clash
Ben Jaffe is the band leader of Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Preservation Hall Jazz Band was formed in 1963 in New Orleans, where they remain today and is a big part of their DNA. The band was formed by Ben’s dad, Allan Jaffe. Since Allen Jaffe passed away, Ben has taken over the leads and carried on this tradition. Most recently, the band went to Cuba and they recorded a documentary and an album called “A Tuba to Cuba.” We’ve been playing the song “Kreyol.”
Justin Barney: What is the last song you couldn’t stop listening to?
Ben Jaffe: I’ve actually been in this deep, deep dive with The Clash.
Justin Barney: Interesting.
Ben Jaffe: The last two months I’ve been spending a lot of time with their music, and with their politics and their history. I don’t understand why anybody wouldn’t like The Clash. I associate with them because when people say “punk,” it immediately has connotations, and people have to learn what that means. It doesn’t mean that you’re a snot nosed kid snubbing society. It means, I’m actually for things, I’m not just against things. I’m for human rights, and I’m for people’s rights and I’m for worker’s rights. It’s a huge learning curve, and it continues to be for people who understand truly what it is. I do. I can really associate with The Clash battling this idea that they’re out to destroy the world when really they’re like, “No, we’re here to celebrate the world and enjoy ourselves in this place that is our generation.”
Justin Barney: That’s such a great perspective. I never really heard it put that way, but that is what it is. People that complain about it are saying that it’s anti- this and anti- that, but there really is a strong belief system under that.
Ben Jaffe: There wasn’t a big punk scene in New Orleans when I was growing up, but there was something about them. To me it was like Bob Marley, it was like New Orleans music where it was a celebration of something. The thing that they were against was like, we’re against oppression, we’re against inequality, we’re against you being judgmental towards me for the way I dress or the way I look. And it’s like, yeah, I get that. People make fun of me for the way I dress. Don’t make fun of me, I like the way I look. I mean, talk about Fats Domino, and Allen Touissant and Dr. John. I’m sure if Dr. John popped out on the street in Omaha people would probably think he looks funny. But down in New Orleans we were like, “Man, I wanna look like him!”
Justin Barney: What’s the song that I should play?
Ben Jaffe: Oh my gosh, do I have to pick one?
Justin Barney: Gotta pick one.
Ben Jaffe: Truly my favorite song is “Straight to Hell.”
Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch picks “A Dream of You and Me” by Future Islands
Stuart Murdoch is the lead singer of Belle and Sebastian. Belle and Sebastian formed in 1996 in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1998, they released the album “The Boy with the Arab Strap,” which cemented them as indie rock royalty. Their new album, which will be out this year, will be called “Days of the Bagnold Summer.”
Justin Barney: Stuart, I would love to know, what is the last song that you couldn’t stop listening to?
Stuart Murdoch: Let me think. It’s probably that Future Islands one. You know that group, Future Islands?
Justin Barney: I love that group. What do you like about them? I love Samuel Herring, he is such a charismatic frontman. But what do you love about them?
Stuart Murdoch: I love there’s no front there. They’re very soulful. He wears his songs on his sleeve, and they just put them down. Sometimes they’re deceptively simple songs, and they check all the boxes for me. I love the sound on them, it’s a bit of a retro sound, an ’80s or ’90s sort of sound, with the strong lead.
Justin Barney: How did that get stuck with you? You listen to stuff all the time, what arrested your attention?
Stuart Murdoch: The funny thing is, I don’t listen to loads and loads of music these days, so when something comes along and gets stuck, it’s more of an event for me. I don’t listen to music they way I used to. I used to be voracious. They were playing a festival with us in New Zealand and I was just completely taken with them, so I checked out some of their records.
Justin Barney: Did you see Samuel Herring perform? He is captivating.
Stuart Murdoch: I know. We had to go on after them, and somebody said to me, “Well, good luck.”
1. Beach House picks “A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell
My guest today is Alex Scally of Beach House. I remember buying the first Beach house CD from Exclusive Company in Greenfield. They have released an incredible amount of fantastic records: from “Beach House,” to “Devotion,” “Team Dream,” “Bloom,” “Depression Cherry” and their most recent album “7.” They are coming back to Milwaukee this Thursday, on Aug. 8 to the Riverside Theater.
Justin Barney: Alex, what is the last song that you couldn’t stop listening to?
Alex Scally: It’s called “A Case of You,” and it’s by Joni Mitchell.
Justin Barney: Okay, tell me about it.
Alex Scally: It’s from an album called “Blue,” which I think many people have heard of. I was introduced to it when I was a teenager, maybe 18 or 19 years old. I was working on a friend’s farm in Minnesota and he had a record player and we listened to “Blue” every single night. I absolutely fell in love with the record and listened to pretty often for a couple of years.
Then on the summer tours we have been putting on, somehow Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” came up. I just can’t believe how good this record is.
To me, the best song and most indicative of the whole record is “A Case of You.” And this song in particular is really gorgeous because it takes this idea of love and makes it about wine, which is silly but so beautiful. It’s a love song, I could drink a case of you and still be on my feet. She’s talking about the bitterness and the sweetness and all of these things that makes love, not the Hallmark love, but the really deep, crazy love. The whole story is about a tumultuous relationship between two people and how they can’t seem to get it to work, but there is this intense love through that. It just really perfectly encapsulates the feeling of the whole record.
2. Justin Barney picks “Giant Baby” by The Flaming Lips
I love when the Flaming Lips go sad. I think that Wayne
Coyne has the perfect voice to express the kind of gentle sadness in his songs.
Coyne’s tone, one that I appreciate so often, is that by confronting darkness we can change it. In this song Coyne confronts sadness. In Flaming Lipsian fashion he does this by telling the story of a giant baby who grew into a giant little boy. The giant little boy looks into outer space and sees his mother’s face in a cloud across the moon. She died giving birth to the giant baby. Through that act the giant little boy understands that, “life sometimes is sad.”
Coyne is a modern day Aesop with an acid dripped cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth. As long as the Flaming Lips keep making records, I will be around the fire for his whimsical fables.
3. Chris Rosenau of Rosenau & Sanborn picks “Strange Magic” by Electric Light Orchestra
Chris Rosenau is a Milwaukee resident. He has been in bands Collections of Colonies of Bees and Volcano Choir, among many others. Recently he has collaborated with Nick Sanborn of Sylvan Esso and they have a new project called “Rosenau & Sanborn.” They released a beautiful album called “Blue Bird” and they will be playing together this Friday at the Back Room at Collectivo.
Justin Barney: Okay Chris, what is one song that you can’t stop listening to?
Chris Rosenau: One song that I cannot stop listening to, especially this week, is the song “Strange Magic” by the band ELO, Electric Light Orchestra.
Justin Barney: You know, I heard that song when I was playing pool at Club G’s like two weeks ago, so why?
Chris Rosenau: It’s a couple reasons. First, I just saw them at the United Center in Chicago, so ELO is just generally in my head. But honestly man, that song has been stuck in my head since the first time that I heard it. It’s such an insidious, weird tune and I get it stuck in my head all the time so I thought it was a perfect one to talk about for this.
Justin Barney: What about it makes it insidious?
Chris Rosenau: I don’t know, Jeff Lynne is just constantly talking about this strange magic and I don’t know what it is, but I know that he is desperately trying to relay something to me and I just still have no idea. But it’s got everything that you want from ELO, it’s got the strings going all over the place and the little guitar vamps. Its also a weirdly structured song too, just a very mysterious song, I get it stuck in my head all the time.
Justin Barney: It’s got that strange magic.
Chris Rosenau: It does, in fact.
Justin Barney: ELO is such an unlikely band.
Chris Rosenau: I totally agree man. I kind of purposely don’t know a lot about ELO just because I don’t want to ruin the strange magic around them, but I love them. I’ve always thought that they have been, not underrated, but missed a little bit. But then there’s 20,000 people at the United Center that prove me wrong.
Justin Barney: They are such icons and they have hits that are hits, and then when you see them you are like what is going on with this band?
Chris Rosenau: It’s totally true man. There’s a couple instances of this throughout music but Jeff Lynne’s iron will in just willing this thing into the universe is crazy. Especially with the tech they had back then, vocoders, all the synths, the super early stuff and then incorporating all of the strings into the live arrangements,especially back in the day. Like now I get it, but he just executes it perfectly, the show was just nuts. Watching some of those old videos, it’s just like what are you guys doing and how are you doing it?
Justin Barney: In the time, it would be a weird signing as it is, the band has so many string players. And then not only to be signed, to release records, to have hits, to sell out arenas, to be one of the biggest bands ever.
Chris Rosenau: And no one talks about it.
Justin Barney: How weird it is.
Chris Rosenau: I know, I love it. So this is the start we are bringing ELO back.
4. Marcus Doucette picks “Simi Rapp” by Gyedu Blay Ambolley
Justin Barney: I am here with the afternoon host, Marcus Doucette. Marcus, what is one song that you can’t stop listening to?
Marcus Doucette: Lately I have been digging high life, it’s one of my sounds for the summer. One artist that I always come back to is Gyedu Blay Ambolley, it’s a fun name to say. He is a real interesting dude who claims to be the inventor of rap.
Justin Barney: The inventor?
Marcus Doucette:: It checks some boxes. The song that I have been digging came out in 1973 and he released it commercially in his native Ghana and it does have some elements that are distinctly like rap. It would definitely further his career to say that he invented the first rap song. But I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, in some ways, even if he isn’t the inventor of the first rap song. He is an awesome high life player, he is right up there with Ebo Taylor and Pat Thomas, just a great band leader. He was fusing high life with jazz and soul. He was influenced by all these other cats, like James Brown, and you can hear it in his sound.
Justin Barney: What does the song sound like?
Marcus Doucette:: The song is just dope. It’s called “simi rapp.”
Justin Barney: Okay, so he says rap.
Marcus Doucette: So “simi” would be like “see me rap” but it’s “s-i-m-i rapp”.
Justin Barney: It is like Sugarhill Gang? Like a hip-hop-hippity to the hip-hop?
Marcus Doucette: It’s not like a hip-hop-hippity to the hip-hop. It’s just an infectious grove, and it’s punctuated, I can’t really understand the lyrics, but punctuated with a bunch of “oh-pa’s!” and he’s just going on and on, he’s clearly got some kind of flow going. I might not call him the inventor of rap, but I would call him one of the godfathers.
Justin Barney: A pioneer.
Marcus Doucette: A pioneer.
5. Justin Barney picks “Disco” by Surf Curse
I think it’s pretty universal that people fall in love with songs that sounds like the music that was coming out when they first became music lovers.
When I first started self-identifying as a “music person”, that was the early 2000s. Surf Curse sounds a lot like the music that I really fell in love with, bands like Sunset Rub Down and The Love Language. A lot of things that were described as having jangly guitars, I really love that sound and Surf Curse has a lot of it. So I think there’s a bit of puffed up nostalgia for this sound in my brain, which is why I think I love this.
Also, I think it’s just a really good song, even without that. The guitar tone and the vocals that sit beneath this guitar tone, and the drum patterns the way that it starts and stops make for a great song on its own in 2019. Even though I recognize in myself there’s a hint of nostalgia, this is a song that has been on repeat for me, I absolutely love it.
My guest this week is Matt Pryor, lead singer of The Get Up Kids. The Get Up Kids were formed in 1995 in Kansas City, Missouri. They had an incredible streak with 1999’s “Something to Write Home About,” 2002’s “On a Wire,” “The Guilt Show” in 2004, they took a little break, and then came back this year with an incredible record called “Problems. ” We have been playing the song “The Problem Is Me.” My guest today is Matt Pryor, lead singer of The Get Up Kids.
Justin Barney: Matt, what is the last song that you couldn’t stop listening to?
Matt Pryor: Well, it’s kind of two ends of the same spectrum, but there’s like four songs on the new PUP record that I can’t stop listening to.
Justin Barney: Yes.
Matt Pryor: “Morbid Stuff,” “Kids,” “Closure,” and then — what’s the name of the one that’s like “Just ’cause you’re sad again/It doesn’t make you special at all?” So I would listen to those kind of on repeat. They’re good for running, you know?
Justin Barney: Yeah! In the sphere of the world that I’m in, a lot of people really like PUP… What do you think they have captured?
Matt Pryor: It’s the sound of a band that’s really hitting their stride, in my opinion. They’ve always been good, but this is kind of like, “Oh, you’re really upping the ante on this one, aren’t you boys?” And I know those guys, we’ve toured with them before, and that is always like an extra level of like, “I’m happy for them.” I feel like they’re kindred spirits and they’re maybe going through a similar time in their career that we went through in the late ’90s- early 2000s where something is clicking, you know what I mean?
Justin Barney: Oh, for sure. What do you like about their songwriting?
Matt Pryor: You know, there have been bands from Toronto before that kind of meld this sort of like screaming and singing, that’s not like screaming in a hardcore way. It’s more shouting than screaming.
Justin Barney: Yeah.
Matt Pryor: I think that that’s really cool. But then I do listen to it and it’s like, “Ohhh buddy.” When you’re in your forties and you still have to sing like that you’re going to regret it. I have to do that now, and it’s… [stressfully exhales.]
2. Justin Barney picks “Sharon” by Rosenau & Sanborn
One song that I can’t stop listening to is “Sharon” by Rosenau and Sanborn.
The Sanborn in Rosenau and Sanborn is Nick Sanborn, the beat maker and knob twister in the duo Sylvan Esso. The Rosenau in Rosenau & Sanborn is Milwaukee’s own Chris Rosenau, an instrumentalist in the bands Collections of Colonies of Bees and Volcano Choir.
Together as Rosenau and Sanborn they do the best of what they do in their respective groups. Chris Rosenau builds beautiful moments of music as art, creating a moment. Nick Sanborn, as he does in Sylvan Esso, is a counterweight and a balance point to beauty by creating these wild bits of hooky beat-making through his analog synthesizer. Together, you wouldn’t think that they would necessarily make sense, but that’s the beauty of it. They balance each other out and create this beautiful work of art together.
3. Gabriela from Rodrigo y Gabriela picks “The Pot” by Tool
My guest today is Gabriela Quintero from Rodrigo y Gabriela. Rodrigo y Gabriela have been at it for nearly 20 years. The acoustic guitar duo, whose music is a blend of flamenco, metal and rock, have performed at the White House, they have made music soundtracks, they have performed for audiences around the globe. We have been playing their son “Mettavolution“.
Justin Barney: I want to know the last song that you couldn’t stop listening to.
Gabriela: I think very many, but one of the tracks I really love is “The Pot” from Tool. It’s always an interesting listening, it’s very long and has a lot of details. Before our shows we always play the song.
Justin Barney: What do you find interesting about them?
Gabriela: They are very groovy, yet they always play different measurements, it’s not a conventional thing. Sometimes when you hear bands, they do a different measurement and it’s not conventional, they can sound very technical. But with this band, everything flows. The riffs are very good, the melodies, and the sound is dark, heavy, power, but it’s also very musical.
Justin Barney: Of all of their songs, why “The Pot”?
Gabriela: I love the melody and the way that the song starts, the voice melody is very powerful. I don’t really understand the lyrics, I don’t speak English much so listening to songs like that, it’s hard. I don’t put much attention to the lyrics so I don’t really know what the song talks about, so it’s always the music that drives me.
Justin Barney: That’s great. So you use it before you come out?
Gabriela: Yes, for maybe 10 years now we have been using it.
Justin Barney: Wow, so it’s a part of your show?
Gabriela: It is part of our show. And then we always finish with “For Those About to Rock.” We started that about 11 years ago.
4. DJ Tarik AKA The Architect picks “Harlem River Drive OG” by Mourning [A] BLKstar
I am here with DJ Tarik AKA The Architect.
Justin Barney: Tarik, what is one song that you can’t stop listening to.
DJ Tarik: It’s a really cool group out of Cleveland, I guess they’re a collective. They go by the name Mourning [A] BLKstar.
Justin Barney: Oh, I know this group. Tell me more about them.
DJ Tarik: Well they’re out of Cleveland, and they describe themselves as a multi-generational, gender and genre non-conforming amalgam of black culture dedicated to servicing the stories and songs of an apoctalyptic diaspora.
Justin Barney: That is a lot of big words. So what does that mean and what does that sound like?
DJ Tarik: Let’s put it this way: They take early Parliament and funkadelic-
Justin Barney: sick-
DJ Tarik: production styles of Flying Lotus and J Dilla-
Justin Barney: sick-
DJ Tarik: kind of the futuristic R&B of Solange-
Justin Barney: look at that-
DJ Tarik: and ’60s, ’70s soul.
Justin Barney: Dang.
DJ Tarik: You mesh it together with great storytelling and great lyrics and that’s Mourning a Black Star.
5. Justin Barney picks “Pray 2 the Dope” by Maxo Kream
Maxo Kream is a Houston-born rapper, and he’s one of my favorites because Maxo Kream is a storyteller.
Here, he tells his own story, and this is a story of losing faith — the story of being a kid. The line that got me in this song is “I used to dream I’d make the league/Called plays in the huddle.” NBA dreams! What little kid doesn’t have NBA dreams like that? And then as the song goes on, he wakes up to the reality that’s around him. No food, no clothes, he loses those NBA dreams, and he’s got to get a job at Panera. So he gets this job at Panera and puts his faith in God that He will help him out of this, but those prayers aren’t getting answered, and he’s still in the same situation. So he turns to selling drugs, and he loses his faith in God, but he finds this faith in himself. He’s got to put his faith in the work and he is going to get himself out of this. So he puts his faith in the work and prays to the dope.
1. Ra Ra Riot’s Wes Miles picks “I’ll Keep it With Mine” by Fairport Convention (Bob Dylan cover)
Ra Ra Riot was formed in Syracuse, New York. I think of them as indie-rock royalty, and they are near and dear to our hearts. One of their recent songs was in the movie “Booksmart,” and one of the members lived in Milwaukee for a bit. They have a new album, “Superbloom,” which will be out in August. I am talking to lead singer Wes Miles.
Justin Barney: What would be the last song that you couldn’t stop listening to?
Wes Miles: The last song I was just obsessed with and couldn’t stop listening to, even in my sleep it would just be playing, was “I’ll Keep it With Mine.” It’s a Fairport Convention cover of a Bob Dylan song. I think Sandy Denny has one of the best voices in all of music history. Talk about vulnerable. There is so much dynamic within the music and the vocals, it’s incredible. Of course, Bob Dylan having written it, the lyrics are amazing, and Fairport Convention is an awesome band. That’s the last really difficult song for me to not listen to.
Justin Barney: I like Bob Dylan covers because someone gets a crack at a song that is really well written.
Wes Miles: That’s a good way to put it.
Justin Barney: How did you discover that song?
Wes Miles: We just did a tour in Mexico and we were working out some covers to do. We would meet every Wednesday night and everyone would bring a cover, and it was just a fun, different thing to do. I was like, “Hey, I know this song, I’ve always wanted to sing this song,” and so we did that. There is no recording of it but it’s just so fun to sing that song and learn stuff like that.
2. Justin Barney picks “Celebration” by Florist
This song starts off with the lead singer, Florist, just talking over music. I think that’s one of the reasons why I like music a lot: listening to music is a chance to listen to someone else. In this song, I really like the way that Florist presents it. It is very personal and quiet and close. In the background there are all of these bird sounds, and it’s very pleasant. It sounds like you’re sitting outside with Florist, and she’s got her guitar there and she’s just talking to you.
3. Alex Lahey picks “Falling Apart” by Emma Louise
Alex Lahey was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1992. She has released two albums so far, “I Love You Like A Brother,” in 2017, from which we played the song “Every Day’s the Weekend,” and this year’s “The Best of Luck Club,” from which we are playing “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself” right now. She writes anthems, and they’re great.
Justin Barney: Alex, what is the last song that you couldn’t stop listening to?
Alex Lahey: I think it would be “Falling Apart” by Emma Louise.
Justin Barney: Who is she?
Alex Lahey: She is an artist from Cairns, in Australia, and she’s based in Los Angeles now. She released this record last year called “Lilac Everything,” and the record has these incredible songs and arrangements on it. The thing about it that makes it really different is that the whole record is pitch shifted down four semitones, so her voice doesn’t sound like her. She kind of sounds like a man, or there are more male characteristics. It’s interesting and it’s not something you notice as immediately as you would think. Further to that, it’s astounding how emotive just that change makes you feel and how emotive it makes the song just because of that pitch shift, which is really weird. You wouldn’t think it would make you feel the song in a different way, but it does.
Justin Barney: Why do you think that she pitch shifted down?
Alex Lahey: I don’t know Emma well enough to say. I’ve met Emma briefly before and she’s super funny with a great sense of humor. A part of me is like, I wonder if they just did this for fun, as a joke. Then I’m like, actually, this is really cool and different. I feel like it would have been a happy accident as opposed to, “Let’s do something really different that’s never been done before and really impress people and make them ask questions.” It would have been more of an organic thing for how they got to that. The only way I could possibly think about it was that they were doing it for a joke and then stuck with it. It’s the only way I would have thought to have done it.
4. Elle Davidson picks “Good Summer” by Kate Nash
I’m here with our summer intern, Elle.
Justin Barney: Elle, what’s one song you can’t stop listening to?
Elle Davidson: I can not stop listening to “Good Summer” by Kate Nash.
Justin Barney: How did this song come to you?
Elle Davidson: This song came on, on my way home from work. I am in college, so summer still means something. I was on the highway and this song came on shuffle, and I remembered that it was summer. There’s a line in the song, “I’ve been waiting all year to feel this good / In the summer,” and that hit me pretty hard. At school, at a lot of times I’m thinking about Milwaukee, and coming home and the special energy that the city has in the summer when it’s hot outside and there’s all these festivals going on. Sometimes I forget that I’ve been waiting all year to feel this good.
Justin Barney: Right on. So who’s it by?
Elle Davidson: Kate Nash, she’s one of my favorite singers. I’ve been listening to her since I was 12.
Justin Barney: What’s your attraction to Kate Nash?
Elle Davidson: I really empathize with a lot of her lyrics. I’ve identified with them from a young age, and then throughout her progression as an artist and me growing into an actual person. She’s such a badass. I skipped my senior prom to go see her in Chicago.
Justin Barney: That’s great. What have you identified with?
Elle Davidson: She writes a lot about a specific kind of loneliness that comes with being a woman and having all of these thoughts about how you compare to other people, but also being confident. She also writes about constantly looking for love but also knowing that being alone is the safest place you can be. All of her songs are more or less about that.
Justin Barney: Does she portray that emotion in this song?
Elle Davidson: I think so, because of that line, “I’ve been waiting all year to feel this good.” It resonates with me so much because I so often forget when I’m in the middle of what I’m looking forward to. I just take a second to remember, “Stay wild and free,” like she says. It’s corny, but you have to say those things to yourself to feel that way.
5. Justin Barney picks “the stage” by Shura
I looooove this song. I’ve been indoctrinated into making “Backspin: The Search for Milwaukee’s First Hip-Hop Song” for the past month, so I’ve been listening to a lot of old-school hip-hop. This week I finally got the chance to listen to new music again, and this is the album that I got stuck on. It’s Shura, who I had never heard of before, but I started listening to it and I got caught up on this song, “the stage.” I like it because it is flirtatious, and I am a big flirt, so there is just something about it. I like its sensibility. It’s got this sense of “will we, won’t we,” and it talks a lot about kissing. It’s kind of romantic. I love it.
Earlier this year, Kevin Morby released his fifth album called “Oh My God.” I believe it to be his best album, also, as it stands, in my top three albums of the year. I am absolutely obsessed with the thing. We have been playing the song “No Halo.”
Justin Barney: What
is the last song that you got stuck on?
Kevin Morby: That’s an interesting question. I haven’t been listening to this song that much, but it has been in my head on repeat. It’s off the new Bill Callahan record, and the song is called “747.” Do you know this record? Do you know this song?
Justin Barney: I just talked to David Gray about it yesterday, and he was raving about this record. What do you like about it? What do you see in it?
Kevin Morby: Well, there’s a lot of airplane imagery on my album, and a lot of my record is about flying and about being on airplanes, and I’m a huge Bill Callahan fan — I have been for a very long time. I think he’s my favorite contemporary, living songwriter. I was really looking forward to this record and there’s a song called “747,” and the first lyrics really hit me because it was something I was trying to describe in my album. Basically, the song begins with him saying “I woke up on a 747/Looking out at some stock footage of Heaven” and it’s just kind of perfect. It made me feel like we were having a similar experience, or we both put songs out about airplanes, and I just felt really close to it. Also, it’s one of those things where he’s one of my heroes, and I had to make this whole record about airplanes, and in one line he just annihilated my whole album.
2. Justin Barney picks “Perfect Place” by Sui Zhen
One song that I can’t stop listening to is “Perfect Place” by Sui Zhen.
I was kind of passively listening to this song, and I heard the synth line and it reminded me of the synth line that is in “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” by the Talking Heads, and that grabbed my attention. And when I started paying attention to the song, I heard the lines “Perfect place” and realized that this song is called “Perfect Place.” And I don’t know if the connection between “This Must be the Place” and “Perfect Place” is conscious, and I don’t know if it’s even really there or if it’s just in my mind. I like to think that this is a little wink to the camera — to those people that know both songs. I don’t know if that is true, but that’s what I’m sticking to.
3. Chuck Klosterman picks “I Only Want To Be With You” by Dusty Springfield
Justin Barney: What’s the last song you couldn’t stop listening to?
Chuck Klosterman: It’s “I Only Want To Be With You” by Dusty Springfield. I was driving my kids to school, I have a five year old and a three year old, and I have Sirius XM radio. So I was just flipping through channels and I came across this Dusty Springfield song, which I probably had heard at some point, but I didn’t remember hearing it.
Just the style that she sings in and just her voice in general, but also the almost disarming positivity of the song. It made me think, actually like if this had been the olden days, like what a great song this would have been for a mixtape for a woman, you know. It would have been a great. So then I dropped my kids off and switched my stereo over to Spotify, and I played the song about 70 times. I would just play it in my car as I drove around. That was probably a month ago, but that was definitely the song fitting this criteria. That was the last song I couldn’t stop listening to.
4. Nate Imig picks “Key to Love (Is Understanding)” by The Majestics
Justin Barney: I
am here with Nate Imig. How’s it going?
Nate Imig: It’s going great. I’m in podcast mode. I’ve been listening completely immersively to music from the late 1970s to the mid-’80s, so that’s kind of where my brain is at right now.
Justin Barney: Why are you in podcast mode? What podcast?
Justin Barney: Yes,
we have been searching for Milwaukee’s first hip-hop song. The podcast is out now.
Nate Imig: We
found the song too.
Justin Barney: Spoiler: We found the song. And in it, you’ve been listening to a lot of old school Milwaukee music. Is there a song in particular that has stuck out to you and been in your head for this?
Nate Imig: Yeah, and in fact I think this song might have been in your head, in Tyrone’s head, in all of our heads — and it’s not the first hip-hop song. But it’s a song that we discovered in the process of trying to find Milwaukee’s first hip-hop song, and it comes to us from The Majestics.
Justin Barney: And
what is it called?
Nate Imig: The song is called “Key to Love.” Just the assumption that this one song can tell us the key to love, you know, it’s kind of a presumptuous song title, but I think it delivers.
Justin Barney: So,
according to The Majestics, in 1982, what is the key to love?
Nate Imig: It’s one word, it’s simple. It’s understanding.
Justin Barney: There
Nate Imig: It is
kind of mind blowing, it’s a pretty simple concept.
Justin Barney: They’re
Nate Imig: They’re not wrong. I was just at a wedding and the whole ceremony was basically premised on that. Like, hear each other out, understand each other, give each other slack. And The Majestics had this nailed.
Justin Barney: They
had it right all along.
Nate Imig: So this song is a lot of fun, and I think the reason why I love it so much isn’t for the vocal performance or the production of it, it’s just the — it’s the theme, it’s the understanding. It’s like, that is the key to love, right I mean-
Justin Barney: It
Nate Imig: So
simply stated, but I think it, you know, gets in your head and it sticks with
5. Justin Barney picks “Calm Down aka I Should Not Feel Alone” by Ezra Furman
This is the final song this week and it is my pick. My pick is called “Calm Down aka I Should Not Feel Alone” by Ezra Furman.
Ezra Furman is just one of those artists that can do no wrong in my book. Everything that they’ve done has this pop core to it that is fun and shiny, but on top of it is Ezra Furman’s voice, just kind of erratic and heartfelt. Ezra Furman is calling this their punk record, but even at their most punk, they still have this semblance of fun and sunshiney energy.
If you’re ever in an argument and someone tells you to calm down in the middle of it, you want to yell at them like Ezra Furman yells in this song.
1. The National’s Bryce Dessner picks “You Are My Sister by Antony & The Johnsons
The National is one of our favorite bands. You probably know them and love them. They just released an album called “I Am Easy To Find.” Bryce Dessner is the guitarist and composer in the band. Outside of the band he is also a composer in his own right. He has won a Grammy for doing it, he has composed for the L.A. Philharmonic, he has been at The Met, he has performed at Carnegie Hall and he is accomplished and respected as a composer. He is also the guitarist for The National. We recorded this interview backstage at one of their performances.
Justin Barney: What song do you have on pause on your phone right now? Bryce Dessner: “You Are My Sister” Antony & the Johnsons. Justin Barney: That makes a lot of sense to me! Okay, so why were you listening to this song and why do you like it? Bryce Dessner: Anohni, formerly Antony, I think is really one of the greatest artists of our time. Justin Barney: So do I. Bryce Dessner: And I think her voice is kind of following from Nina Simone, I think she is just so exceptional and I don’t think that we will see another singer like that of our era. Justin Barney: What do you like about her composition work? Bryce Dessner: There is a kind of sense of humanity in the music, kind of like great classical music, she is constantly playing with frays and tempo. If you listen to the songs they are very simple, orderly simple, but in terms of interpretation, she is a classic singer. So you know, simple songs almost no one else can sing those songs and they speed up and slow down in the same breath, so the musicians that accompany her are exceptionally good. Then obviously she is revered as someone like Lou Reed, who is a deep, deep fan of Anohni. I kind of see her as a classic New York figure from that period and you put her next to Warhol, Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed. She is a New York fixture.
At the beginning of this song Hatchie sings this line that I love. The line is “Blow my friends off and then cry about being lonely.”
And I feel like this song feels like that line.
You have gone into the night and you have decided that you don’t want to be around people, you’ve called it off. But then you are alone and this song is about that lonely feeling; of wanting to push everyone away but also wanting to be wanted and being in that static middle.
3. Paper Holland picks “I Only Say I’m Sorry When I’m Wrong Now” by Cheekface
My guest today is Milwaukee’s own, Paper Holland. Paper Holland released a sunny and breezy, beautiful album, “Galapagos,” about a year ago. They are doing a vinyl release party at the Cooperage on Saturday July 20, as well. We have played a lot of songs off of “Galapagos.” I am here with Andy Kosanke and Joe Tomcheck of Milwaukee’s own Paper Holland.
Justin Barney: Alright Joe and Andy, what is one collective song that you can’t stop listening to? Andy: “I Only Say I’m Sorry When I’m Wrong Now” by Cheekface. Justin Barney: I love a title that just is a sentence. You already have a song. What is this band? Andy: They are called Cheekface, they are a Los Angeles band. Justin Barney: How did you discover them? Andy: Through Twitter. They put out a tweet that was “Where should we tour” and I think Dylan from the Unitaskers said to come play in Milwaukee with us and Paper Holland. So I checked them out and I was like, this rules and then I just kind of fell in love with the song and the band. Just in Barney: What do you guys like about the song? Andy: It has a lot of familiar elements to it, that sort of remind us of Talking Heads. Joe: I think there is a little Cake in there too. Andy: There is a little Cake in there for better or worse. If you like Cake, if you hate Cake. Joe: I love eating cake. Andy: There is a lot of punchy guitar tones in it, a good production. It sort of reminds me of the first Darwin Deez’s album. It really jumps out. Justin Barney: What is the song about? Andy: It’s about only saying sorry when you are wrong. Justin Barney: Does that mean that you never say sorry at all? Joe: I apologize constantly. I am so Midwest, I just ‘ope’ all the time. Andy: I do not embody this song, we are a walking ‘ope.’ Joe: I apologize to inanimate things. Andy: I apologized to a door the other day. Joe: I only say I’m sorry when — always.
4. Tyrone Miller picks “What If” by Amber Mark
Justin Barney: I am here with weekend DJ Tyrone Miller. Tyrone what’s up? So what is one song that you can’t stop listening to. Tyrone Miller: So there is no denying that I love some ’90s R&B and Amber Mark is a newer artist that has all of those vibes. If you watch her videos, listen to her music, it just takes you back to ’91, ’92 R&B. She has a new song called, “What If” and it’s just that same thing. But this one song is a little more dreamier, a little more soulful, she uses the strong points of her voice more and I just love it. It just takes me back right there the same way that her other songs have. Justin Barney: There can be a trap in going back to R&B and going back to that time to just sound like music from that time. Does she do enough to not make it sound like she is just going back? Tyrone Miller: For sure, I definitely think she takes some brand new elements of music now to make it sound very different. So like when she had that song, “Put You On” she had D.R.A.M. on there and D.R.A.M. is such a newer hip hop artist. So even though it feels ’90s R&B, it still feels now. So if it came out 20 years ago, it would fit and it comes out now and it still fits. She reminds me of VanJess or reminds me a lot of Zhané — the ’90s R&B duo. They just have so many newer elements to their music that it just feels good, there is a new energy to it. So I think Amber Marks bring that newer energy to the music, even though it feels ’90s R&B.
5. Justin Barney picks “Plantasia” by Mort Garson
In 1967 Mort attended a demonstration from the inventor of the Moog synthesizer and it changed the way that he made music.
He started making these huge scores that were thematic and conceptual and in 1976 he released possibly his weirdest album of all time. It’s called “Mother Earth’s Plantasia, Warm Earth Music for Plants.” The album is not intended for human ears, but rather for house plants. Play this album to your house plants and they will hear it and grow healthy and strong.
It is a bong-rip of an idea, founded on mid-’70s idealism and an obsession of analogue synthesizers. This album got a re-release from last week and you bet I bought it.
Little Simz is from London, England. She just released her third album, “GREY Area,” and it’s blowing up. She just came to the U.S. on a headlining tour, and we have been playing her stuff on 88Nine After Nine.
Little Simz, do you have your phone with you?
Little Simz: I do.
Justin Barney: What
song do you have on pause on your phone right now?
Let’s have a look. “Do Not Disturb” by Drake.
Justin Barney: Why
did you press play on this song?
Little Simz: We
were driving from Chicago to here, and it was very scenic and very beautiful. I
think it’s one of my favorite Drake verses, and it just kind of suited the
vibe, the mood- everything. Just that drive.
Justin Barney: What
about the verse and the scene made sense to you?
Little Simz: Have
you heard the song?
Justin Barney: No
Little Simz: Well, I think it’s the last song on his project and it’s that song where you reflect and you look back on things. You’ve gone through this journey, and this is the conclusion. For me, this felt like I’ve just touched down in the States, and this is the start of a new journey, but I’ve had to leave behind something. It was fitting.
Justin Barney: That’s perfect. That’s a true moment, moment. I love it when a song can give you that moment.
2. Justin Barney picks “Giannis” by Freddie Gibbs
I love that this song is about Giannis: The MVP of the NBA, Milwaukee’s own Giannis Antetokounmpo.
But what I like is that it’s not even about Giannis.
It’s not about Giannis, it’s just titled “Giannis.” Freddie Gibbs, one of the greatest rappers in the world, who has one of my favorite flows in the world, is pairing up with Mad-Lib, universally recognized as possibly the greatest beat maker of all time, and Anderson. Paak, the hottest name in music right now, titled this song “Giannis” not because this song is about Giannis, not because they wanted to talk about Giannis, but because they, the three biggest artists in the world, wanted to use Giannis as clout in their song. They wanted to use the hype that surrounds Giannis to make the song sound important — to use him to elevate them — and that is what I love about this song.
They use Giannis to take themselves to the next level because that is the level that Giannis is at. That’s something that I am proud of.
3. Rose of the West picks “I’m A Very Rude Person” by Thom Yorke
Cedric LeMoyne started his music career as a teenager when he and his friends started the group Remy Zero. He has played bass with and tours with Alanis Morisette and Gnarls Barkley. Cedric currently plays with Milwaukee band Rose of the West whose songs “Hunter’s Will” and “Roads” are played on 88Nine. Rose of the West is playing Summerfest this Friday at 7 p.m. at the Miller Lite Oasis.
Barney: Cedrick, what is one song you can’t stop
Cedric LeMoyne: The one song that’s been on repeat for the last little while is “I’m A Very Rude Person” by Thom Yorke on the new ANIMA release. It’s an amazing song.
Barney: Yes, what do you like about the song?
Cedric LeMoyne: Like a lot of his lyrics, he is heavy on conversation with the subject of the song, but it’s a conversation that he is having in his head with the subject. It could be something as big as a relationship or something that has gone horribly, horribly wrong or it could be as benign as being stuck in a dinner conversation with someone that is insufferable. But you know, it works on all those levels and it’s just him talking himself through how he is going to get out from under the cloud of whoever that thing is — it could be politics. He started playing about a year and a half ago live, and from the first time I’ve heard it, a few times, seeing him play live, it just sticks with me, the lyrics, and resonates with something that I have gone through recently with a close, formerly close, relationship. So yeah, an amazing song. And also, no sound, no lyricist, melodist, writer, production team no one cares as much about the details and the sound — it’s just a sonic garden.
Justin Barney: Do you think that he is a very rude person?
Cedric LeMoyne: He is not a very rude person. He is actually a very, very cool person. But you know, I suppose he can turn it on when he needs to, as he does in the song.
Barney: Have you met Tom?
Cedric LeMoyne: Oh yeah, he is an old friend.
Barney: How did you meet him?
Cedric LeMoyne: The band that I started with, Remy Zero, we were on the same label in the early ’90s. And before “Pablo Honey” came out we were listening to the things that were coming soon on the label and we found that record and thought, wow this band is amazing. And they liked us too, and I think we met them and their managers with our A&R people at Yamshira Sushi like in 1993 or ’92, a long time ago. And we just became friends. And as they sort of grew and became the Radiohead that we all know and love today, they all remained friendly and cool to us — they took us out to a few shows on the Bends tour and they and their management have always been good friends.
I’m here with our new Community Stories producer. Salam, you were an intern and now you’ve made it to the big time!
Salam Fatayer: I made it! I made it! We’re here.
Justin Barney: Two former interns. What is one song you can’t stop listening to?
Salam Fatayer: Well, you’re in for a treat. Before I tell you what the song is, let me give you a little backstory. It’s a Bollywood song, and I don’t really listen to a lot of Bollywood songs, but I like to use context clues to figure out what the song says without looking at the lyrics.
Salam Fatayer: It’s called “Jimmi Jimmi Jimmi Aaja,” and I think it means… there’s a guy named Jimmi and he goes abroad to India, and he meets a girl, and they just instantly click and fall in love. But then the girl that’s singing, she’s telling her parents, and her parents say “No! Don’t date Jimmy.” So she says, “Mom and Dad, you don’t know what this is. This is love. You can’t get in between that.” So then they start dating, but then Jimmi goes back home from his study abroad trip.
Justin Barney: Jimmi! How could you?
Salam Fatayer: So she’s singing “Jimmi, Jimmi come back.” Because “aaja” means “come.”
Justin Barney: This
Salam Fatayer: But, I’m wrong. So, it’s basically a disco Bollywood song, which I didn’t really think was a thing, but it’s really cool. She’s just telling this guy, I think at a club or something, “Why are you so alone? Come dance. Why are you in the corner?”
Justin Barney: I
like your story better. Let’s go with our context clues.
Salam Fatayer: Yes.
The song is “Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aaja” by Parvati Khan.
Justin Barney: Choose your own adventure.
5. Justin Barney picks “If You Want To” by beabadoobee
Sometimes you hear a song and it’s like haven’t I heard this before? Hasn’t this song been a part of my life for years? Don’t I already love this? And this song has that quality. Listening to it for the first time feels like you are listening to it for the hundredth because you’ve already loved it.