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Caity and Shane of Olden Yolk on Tucker Zimmerman – Song Poet

Just last week Olden Yolk released their sophomore LP, a stunning mix of folk and subtle, blushing psychedelia. Its already pushing up the list of favorites for 2019, so naturally I jumped at getting a chance to look at one of the influences locked on the band’s own turntable. Caity and Shane give some background on finding, and constantly returning to, Tucker Zimmerman’s own sophomore stunner, his “Black Album,” originally issued with no title, and eventually rechristened Song Poet following a proper reissue in 2016. Check out how this record came into the band’s life and what makes it particularly special to them.

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Kevin Morby on Paul Westerberg – Stereo

As I’ve previously mentioned this week Kevin Morby’s latest is a double-wide opus to spiritual connection and a step away from his usual guitar grounded albums. It’s a big and bold move that’s vaulting Morby even further into the indie rock pantheon’s ranks of ambitious songwriters. That’s not to disparage his back catalog in the least, though. The artist’s rise over the last few albums has been a constant source of joy over here and its great to have Kevin contribute a pick to Hidden Gems. For his pick Morby dips back into his reserve of youthful influences for a Paul Westerberg solo jaunt. Check out how this Midwestern classic came into his life and ultimately what role it played in shaping his own works.

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Chris Forsyth on Robert Quine & Fred Maher – Basic

Over the past few years there have been few guitarists as singular and intriguing in moving the needle forward as Chris Forsyth. As I’ve mentioned in the past, he aims for some sort of ragged, ozone-blasted bliss and always come up shaking off the cinder and ash of sonic debris. He’s exactly the sort I’m always looking for with Hidden Gems – an artist with a perspective informed by years of carving through likeminded stringsmiths to better his feel for the instrument. Its no surprise that when asked what record was sorely overlooked he found solace in another singular guitarist, but his pick is as off the path of usual touchstones as one might hope. Picking a out a piece of Robert Quine’s history, Chris opts for an oft overlooked collaborative record from 1984 with Fred Maher. Check out how this came into his life and what impact the record and Quine have had on his music.

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Shana Cleveland on Charlie Feathers’ – Tip Top Daddy

I’ve long been a fan of La Luz’ surf-soaked garage pop, and that’s in large part to the contributions to guitarist/singer Shana Cleveland. As she’s built up a body of work apart from the group, first with the Sandcastles and now standing alone with the imminent release of Night of the Worm Moon, she’s proving to be a nuanced and nimble songwriter capable of shaking off the both the garage and surf tags to explore waters well beyond her original launching grounds. I implored Shana to pick out a record for the Hidden Gems series that she though was a true hidden gem, lost to the ages and slipping between the cracks of culture. She’s chosen Norton’s roundup of Charlie Feather’s acoustic obscurities. Check out what brought this record into her life and what impact its had on her personally and artistically.

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The Coathangers’ Julia Kugel on Howlin’ Wolf – The Howlin’ Wolf Album

This year has been stuffed with great Hidden Gems and the latest continues the trend. After the release of one of their best album’s to date, The Coathangers’ Julia Kugel has passed along some wisdom from her own record shelves. If you’re unfamiliar with the band (which, frankly seems unlikely) their latest is a great place to start, boiling down their punk, post-punk, and garage impulses to a sound that’s serrated and sawing yet damnably hooky. The band is blessed with three strong songwriters, each bringing their own particular burn to the band and its great to get a look at what’s behind that burn, even just a bit. Julia chooses a conflicted blues classic for her entry. Check out her take on Howlin’ Wolf’s psychedelic period below.

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Mary Timony on Libraness – Yesterday and Tomorrow’s Shells

Having any connection to indie rock over the last 25 years there’s a good chance you’ve stumbled across the works of Mary Timony. From her groundbreaking work with Helium in the ‘90s to solo records that pushed the boundaries of guitar pop, the short-lived supergroup Wild Flag and now her excellent stint in power pop pummels Ex Hex – if you haven’t heard something from that resume, then you damn well should get listening. As Ex Hex embark on their second album Timony sent over a contribution to the Hidden Gems series, taking a look at an album she sees as woefully overlooked by the majority of the listening public. She chose an album close to her musically, the solo album by fellow Helium (and Polvo) member Ash Bowie as Libraness. Check out Mary’s assessment of the album and how it has affected her own writing and playing.

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Design Inspiration: Rob Carmichael [SEEN Studios]

I’ve got another great entry to the Design Inspiration series this week (if I do say so myself). If you’ve been even a tangential fan of indie rock over the past ten years, there’s a good chance that you’ve run into covers from Rob Carmichael aka SEEN Studios. From the iconic cover of Animal Collective’s Merrieweather Post Pavilion to career defining works for Panda Bear, Dirty Projectors, Dan Deacon, Born Ruffians, Beirut, The War on Drugs, Cloud Nothings, and Real Estate – Rob’s been shaping the look of indie as much as any designer in the field. As usual with this series, I asked him to name five of his favorite record covers of all time and to delve into how those covers have influenced his own works. Check his picks below and catch up with Rob’s work over at SEEN.

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Martin Frawley on Maurice Frawley and Working Class Ringos – Triple Skin Marquee

For anyone even remotely familiar with the site, they’d likley know that I have the softest of spots for Aussie indie. Naturally over the years Twerps found their way among the loves here at RSTB. The band’s early releases had a shaggy earnestness that shone through their fidelity limitations. It seems that Merge thought much the same and in 2015 they took a jump to the top tier indies before the band called it quits shortly after due to personal differences. In the wake Martin has struck out solo, spinning the band’s bare, honest jangle-pop into something more toughened and weathered, yet still with a cocked eyebrow and an ever-present smirk. Sounding like Harry Nilsson taking apart Townes Van Zandt songs, its a definite shift in tone, but a welcome progression for those that have had Frawley on the turntable these past few years. Seems there’s another influence on his solo LP, that of his late father Maurice, who’s own career tumbled through a few groups in the ’80s (Olympic Sideburns, Japanese Comix) and wound up in solo territory in ’90s and ’00s. Martin talks through his dad’s legacy and the imprint this record left on him and his new direction below.

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Design Inspiration: Aaron Lowell Denton

This is rapidly becoming one of my favorite features at Raven – a chance to hash out the formative touchstones that have given designers their outlook and approach. So far I’ve had designers with a longer foothold on the game, but now I’m glad to throw a spotlight on a newer name that has fast become a go-to for indie names looking for a classic touch. Aaron Lowell Denton’s been most noted for his posters and its easy to see why. His designs rely heavily on bold type and perfectly washed colors set into nostalgic forms that are hard to pin down, but tend to evoke an instant kinship with the piece. As he’s tipped more and more into album covers he’s racked up designs for EZTV, Bonny Doon, Neon Indian, and Wild Nothing among others. I asked Aaron to reach back for his top five covers and give a little background on why they’re the ones that stick out, and how they’ve helped shape his own approach to cover design.

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Masaki Batoh on Pearls Before Swine – Balaklava

As I mentioned in the review a few days ago, the work of Masaki Batoh has a pretty strong foothold in the roots of RSTB. Ghost in particular is a personal favorite, but the guitarists’ work has touched on higher burning psychedelic forms with The Silence and Cosmic Invention, twisted through experimental norms in his solo work and resonated deeply in his works with collaborator Helena Espvall of Espers. The latest solo outing, though, has felt like a coming home to the psychedelic folk and blues that first gripped me. As such its great to have Batoh contribute to the ongoing Hidden Gems series and tackle a release that he feels might not always get the proper due it deserves. Check below as Masaki discusses finding Pearls Before Swine’s underground classic Balaklava and the impact its had on his own writing.

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