Giants Chair “Red And Clear” LP (Caulfield Records): This record stood out to me during a time when my ears had become pleasantly accustomed to poorly recorded snare drums buried within white-washed unmastering jobs on 7″ records. Instead, here was a band that could rock, with a recording that gave the listener full insight to the large guitar chord vocabulary that Scott Hobart possessed. There are moments where the guitars seem to disappear, replaced by a ghostly sweep of choir-like notes and swirls that makes me wonder if Hobart had a couple extra fingers hidden somewhere on his left hand. He even replied back to my fan mail letters, including hand-drawn guitar tablature to certain tunes I had asked him about. One of the dozen or so bands who truly warped the way I play guitar in the best of ways.
Threadbare “Feeling Older Faster” LP (Doghouse Records): This is heavy, twisted, slow and lurching like one of those ugly motherfucker worms from the movie “Tremors” filled to the brim with nighttime cough-syrup (“the purple stuff”), but pissed off to no end because it can’t find its dinner. So then in a sudden burst of flurry, the ugly motherfucker worm howls, screeches, pisses itself, and bashes it ugly motherfucker head repeatedly into the pavement… only to be possessed by the cough-syrup sedation just a minute later, and it soon slumbers softly into an afterthought. Kevin Bacon then stumbles upon a copy of this record and blows lines of cocaine off the album jacket – the end.
Lou Barlow “A Collection Of Home Recordings” (Shrimper): I had owned a four-track cassette machine for about a year, and often times I’d wonder just why the hell I put so much time into using a device that would sometimes produce results only marginally better than a boombox could. On the flipside, the charm of self-recording and the unlistenability (is that a word?) of some of these recordings would add to the special qualities and character that I grew to love, so I’d begin to perpetuate the ugliness, the rawness, and the spirit of lo-fidelity as freely as I chose to in my own 4-track ponderings. Until I heard Lou Barlow, I wasn’t aware that perhaps there was a small “movement” for this sort of thing, in addition to the possibility of an audience of some kind as well. Good songs are good songs, no matter how they are recorded, and I want to thank Lou for helping me realize this.
Converge “Halo In A Haystack” LP (self-released): In the first few bands I played in, we were younger than young and had really had no clue as to finding an audience in our local area, nevermind attaining the frightful goal of someday playing in different states outside of our own. Then came the discovery of local hardcore music, where the shows were sort of dangerous, always crowded, and very talked about both before and after the fact. Converge seemed to hold some kind of higher crown in this scene – they didn’t play live very much because their bass player at the time was going to school full-time out-of-state, but when they did, a fearful excitement plagued the insides of many local show-goers for sometimes weeks before the actual day of the show. I must say that I was one of the plagued, and I’ve never been fully quarantined since.
Codeine “The White Birch” LP (Sub Pop): Before I was truly immersed in the local hardcore scene, I did spend a period of time buying any records with the Sub Pop logo on the sleeve, which of course led me deeper into the catalogs of other Sub Pop-affiliated labels like Flydaddy, Up Records, etc. Codeine was another pleasant surprise because it reassured me of the validity behind my idea of a great record label – to offer diversity not for the sake of diversity, but because there is something to believe in with all the varied musical ingredients available for exploration. Slow and patient like a quiet snowfall, this is one of the most calm yet confident presentations I’ve ever come across. The fact that they did not play any of this stuff along with a metronome only adds to the triumph. Never has a 3-piece band filled an audio space with such a mix of scarcity and meaning. In my headphones, I’ve been known to get lost in walks with grey backdrops, cold slush, and a gaze that’s sightless beyond a soothing blizzard.
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