Staff Picks

Simon Joyner: Heaven’s Gate
Posted by Jimmy Applebottom for Vertigo Music Online

Nobody likes Simon Joyner. It’s true. Despite the fact that Conor Oberst has described him as “the best there is as far as humans,” and released a duet with the guy, no Bright Eyes fans seem to find their way to the Simon Joyner section of their local record shop. It’s probably due to the fact that Simon Joyner is far older, far wiser and far better than Oberst can yet hope for, so his music lacks that certain plaintive, angsty quality that captures the heart of millions of other plaintive, angsty people. Regardless, no fans of Leonard Cohen or Townes Van Zant find their way to the Simon Joyner bin either, and he easily stands next to those big guns and holds his own. He’s a sing er/songwriter. Period. Most of his songs don’t even have a decent backing band, just a violin or the occasional fiddle or drumbeat. That doesn’t stop people from buying Mounain Goats records by the boatload, does it? Joyner’s been releasing music since cassette labels were still all the rage. He’s got the love-it-or-hate-it voice that seems to beg for indie cred. He writes horribly literate narratives and releases multi-record 7″ compendiums of 60’s & 70’s singer/songwriter cover tunes in homage to his craft. John Peel once played his ‘The Cowardly Traveler Pays His Toll’ LP front to back on his radio show. He is so obviously an influence on Conor Oberst that the kid should have to pay royalties, yet Oberst is “the next Dylan” and Simon Joyner barely gets a footnote. We all know there’s no justice here on Earth, but before i die i will make someone acknowledge this guy’s talent. While the recently re-released (on vinyl) ‘Yesterday, Tomorrow and In-Between’ is his most accessible record, brimming with actual backing-band accompaniment, it’s ‘Heaven’s Gate’ that really showcases the guy’s abilities. It’s a stark, pretty depressing record, but his manipulation of metaphor and inarguable songwriting talent just walk up casually and smack you in the face. Later records are decent, but ‘Heaven’s Gate’ is the most cohesive, consistent statement i think he’s made. If you’re looking for something to put on shuffle with Cohen’s ‘Avalanche’ and old Nick Cave, or maybe just something to replace those Bright Eyes discs you’ve overplayed ad nauseum, would you please, PLEASE, stop overlooking the Simon Joyner bin? Please?

Restiform Bodies – Restiform Bodies
Posted by Jimmy Applebottom for Vertigo Music Online

You ever have one of those “secret weapon” cds? The one you bust out on road trips or at low-key parties and after 20 minutes everyone says “What are we listening to? This is amazing.” You kind of smirk and say “__________” and then they nod like they know what you’re talking about? (A week later they will all ask you to burn them a copy because they can’t find it or remember the name of the band they didn’t know about to begin with.) This is one of those cds. Restiform Bodies (comprised of Passage, The Bomarr Monk & Telephone Jim Jesus) gets filed in the hip hop section, but there is almost nothing here to tether it to that category. We just don’t know where else to put it. 80’s synth lines, fractured beats, mile-a-minute stream of consciousness lyrics and genre-bending instrumentation all kind of trample over one another for 80 minutes, and when you’re done it almost demands another listen just to figure out what the hell you just experienced. Passage’s delivery (sometimes spoken, sometimes sung) is the only consistent element, as the backdrop shifts through just about every type of sampler trick and bizarre 80’s new wave posturing one could ask for. ‘3rd Reel Judy Garland’ near the end of the disc is a perfect example, as Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ gets stripped down and outfitted with a Vietnamese vocal snippet for a bridge, while Passage (without a hint of a rhyme) delivers a three minute diatribe on the movie industry. It makes you want to dance, drop acid, read the dictionary, buy a synthesizer, vomit a little, call your mom and start a band, and that all happens before the 15 minute mark. Hell, it happens all within the second song. Although all members are now part of the Anticon collective, none of their newer work compares to the sheer variety, left-field mayhem and experimentation of this debut LP, despite the fact that Anticon specializes in making hip hop for indie rockers. It stands alone, forgotten in the music store bins, as one of the best and most consistently engaging records to fall under the avant hip hop tag. Oh, and it’s perfect for road trips.

Hollertronix: Never Scared
Posted by Jimmy Applebottom for Vertigo Music Online

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The city of brotherly love. It makes a certain kind of sense that if Dirty South crunk, Baltimore house, The Cure and 60’s disco were going to spawn a mutant hybrid that make street thugs, bespectacled Weezer fans, 35 year old secretaries and gutterpunks get up on the same dance floor and shake their asses together, Philly would be the place. Before Diplo was the household name he is today, remixing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and dating M.I.A, he and fellow cohort LowBudget were just two kids out of Philly looking for a DJ gig. What they created was a city wide explosion that took the “mashup” genre into something totally unheard of. Within the first ten minutes of ‘Never Scared’ Missy Elliott, Ludacris, The Clash, Debbie Deb and JJ Fad run buckwild over and under one another in a seamless blend of pure, party-starting bliss. It doesn’t matter what you like, where you work or whether you have legs. Everyone grabs another shot of whiskey/Hennessey/French kamikaze and a PBR and rushes the dancefloor like there was a fire near the back. It’s without genre because it’s all genres. All at once. DMX and the Eurythmics, Snoop Dogg & the Cure, Bjork and Three Six Mafia. They’re all holding hands over some Baltimore thump or electroclash breaks while anyone within earshot shuts the fuck up and takes notice. Diplo has been busy making his own LP and touring the globe with M.I.A, but LowBudget and the rest of The Rub (their collective of like-minded DJs) are still churning out pawrty jawns like it was illegal. Which it is. Regardless, their next installment of goodness is due by the end of ’06, and since it can only be released in “promotional” quantities, you might want to keep your eyes peeled and your dancefloor open. In the meantime, find yourself a copy of ‘Never Scared’ and act like you know.