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Listen Up, Nerds: The Week of February 2, 2024

Listen Up, Nerds: The Week of February 2, 2024

Welcome back to the Listen Up, Nerds Newsletter. This week's roundup features Ambient Country, Ambient House, and a couple more chaotic listens.

Speaking of chaotic, I finished listening to the audiobook for Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis (as read by Boy Meets World's Rider Strong) this week and what a freak Kiedis is. I love a book with an unreliable narrator but what about a book with a manipulative narrator? He's not manipulating me, but it's a stressful listen when you hear Kiedis explain how he had to do something wrong or lie or throw someone under the bus in order to survive. Except he rarely does this in order to survive, he mostly does this to excuse getting high. Which is, I guess, the fun of the story. Kiedis is also unreliable in that he loves to tell obvious lies like that one kid from your third grade class who said his cousin was Terrell Davis from the Denver Broncos. I know damn well he wasn't your cousin, Nick.

I'm listening to the Beastie Boys Book now, which I've meant to listen to for a long time but am now just getting around to it. If you've got any recs for audiobooks that you like, throw 'em in the comments below. Let's get to the music:

Cowboy Sadness - Selected Jambient Works, Vol. 1 (Self-released)

Selected Jambient Works, Vol. 1 is the first offering from Cowboy Sadness and goofy name aside, this is a beautiful record. The tone of country music lends itself quite well to the drone textures that make the backbone of ambient music. The sparse plucking of a baritone guitar over a sparkling synth pad and galloping percussion reminds me of Explosions In The Sky but there’s no big crescendo to satisfy the lizard brain. There are no Friday Night Lights soundtrack moments here, no angle for opportunities outside of the album. Instead, the music is something beautiful and strange and self-contained. The tone of the Rhodes and guitar are the stars in my mind, as the AM radio fuzz turns into this perfect harmonic drone when allowed to ring out as long as possible. The band’s bio references the beautiful desert landscapes across this great country with dunes undulating like waves, making oceans of sand. The prettiest part about so much of the west is that there’s nothing there, with no expectation of anything being there.

RIYL: Suss, Mojave 3, Ry Cooder, watching the movie Paris, TX

DJ Stepdad - time to figure things out (Self-released)

More ambient-adjace music with a goofy name that you still have to take seriously. Of all the music genres I’m unfamiliar with, I think House seems the most impenetrable to me. I know it’s very easy to listen to, but I have no idea what sets good house apart from bad house for me to talk about why one album is better than another. At any rate, I very much enjoyed the new EP from DJ Stepdad. Wikipedia informed me that ambient house music is “often conflated with Chillout,” but this is a very chill record. The “A” word (ambient) sets listeners up to pay attention to the pads and the textures, the stuff going on in the background, but the percussion is what sticks out in my mind. The pads and textures ARE cool and give the tracks some space, but Stepdad shows off some mastery of timing with fills that come in right on time. “she took the kids” and “bad vibes” both feature sneakily-good drum breaks and the latter has a real magical flip of “We Belong Together” by Mariah Carey tucked in it. Overall, a very fun way to spend about 20 minutes.

RIYL: Fennec, Purelink, finding the love of your life after stepping out on the damp post-rain streets of East Williamsburg for a smoke

Lockslip - Lockslip (Self-released)

And now for something completely different: Lockslip is a new metallic hardcore band out of Los Angeles featuring members of LU,N favorites Entry and oft-overlooked Indiana emo band House Olympics. The frantic, stabbing accents and heavy verse riffs, hallmarks of the genre, are here with a really fantastic, deep, bass tone and a good drummer alongside them. It does not hurt that Sara G is the best vocalist in this genre. She sounds like a jet engine on this EP and the whole thing gives off the vibes of a plane crash (in the most complimentary sense). It’s a very sick debut release that lends as much of its sound to old bands like Disembodied as it does to a newer band like Vein. Really excited to hear more from this group in the future.

RIYL: Vein, Disembodied, Deadguy, the parts in the Saw movies when the camera is moving all fast and janky to show you that the victim is trying really hard to get out of a trap

Old record of the week: Bill Fay - Time Of The Last Persecution (Deram, 1971)

It’s Faybruary, baby. If you’ve never heard this record, it’s time to tap in right now. Once-forgotten, Fay had a bit of a resurgence in the last decade for releasing new music after a 40 year hiatus, and while I like that music enough, Time Of The Last Persecution is the record I want to highlight. Part of the draw is Fay’s weary, soulful voice, part of it is the lyrical obsession with the Book of Revelation and a preoccupation with the end of it all. Outside of that, the guitar work is crazy. Ray Russell’s shredding over songs like “‘Til The Christ Comes Back” along with the trombones wailing is the perfect chaotic foil to Fay’s apocalyptic vision. “Ahead of its time” is one of those cliches I try to avoid but no, this is ahead of its time, sonically. It sounds similar to other folksy pop records of the time but leaning into being a mirror of the chaotic world Fay lived in was a death sentence from a career standpoint. People didn’t get it. Listeners found it much too dark and thought Fay was in crisis himself, but no, it’s a product of the time. Fay says as much in interviews around the record. From a 2005 interview in Electric Eden (h/t We Are Cult): “It was the problems of the world that I was talking about, not my own problems. The world was going through heavy times – or our view of the world was a heavy world.” 

It's a heavy world, baby. Thanks for reading.