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Raven Mahon on Roland Blinn – Rosebud

When writing up The Green Child this week I mentioned that they’re mining some real fun off-kilter synth pop tendencies, finding blending The Creatures and Strawberry Switchblade with jangled touches. One thing I’ve long learned, though, is that while there may be some scars inherent in a record that by no means dictates an artist’s current obsessions. Raven Mahon might be familiar here from her work in The Green Child, but perhaps more so as a member of Grass Widow. The band was long a favorite from the beginning of the last decade, mining post-punk and jangle pop with a carefree flair. I’d asked Raven for a Hidden Gems pick and she’s found an offbeat chem that certainly meets up to the overlooked part of the equation. Check out her take on Canadian songwriter Roland Blinn’s LP Rosebud.

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Amy Hill on Pink Flamingos – We Never Close

Amy Hill has been a regular around here, having been RSTB faves Terry, Primo!, and Constant Mongrel. She’s got another record on the way with Al Montfort as the hard to pin down Sleeper & Snake. The band’s sounds are rooted in synth pop, but they incorporate a clash of jangles, muffled and delirious horns for a haunted edge to their songwriting. Its a post-punk record in the truest sense, feeling through the disparate waters for sounds that might compliment each other and just as often, shake the listener off balance. I’d talked with Amy after the last Primo! record, which was a fave but fates aligned for her to be able to contribute a pick to the Hidden Gems series this time around. Figuring with all the influences in her collective work some post-punk treasure might arise, but I love that this column always keeps me on my toes. Check out Amy’s pick — the Kiwi pub rock curio from The Pink Flamingos below.

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Design Inspiration: Brian Blomerth

Checking in here with another round of Design Inspiration, and this time its from a longtime favorite. Brian Blomerth has popped up in a lot of familiar corners with his idiosyncratic psychedelic style, rooted in his “Adult Contemporary Dog-Face” characters with a proclivity for lush color surroundings. His work has dotted tour posters, comics, and album covers alike, working early on with artists like Videohippos before gracing Anthology compilations and Ryley Walker LPs. Last year he penned an ambitious graphic novel that depicts a historical account of the events of April 19, 1943, when Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann ingested an experimental dose of a new compound known as lysergic acid diethylamide. He’s also, incidentally, the designer of the North Americans’ cover from the review earlier this morning. While his style is a feast for the eyes, its inherent psychedelism makes its perfect for the album cover and I’d asked him to pick five favorite covers of all time for the Design Inspiration column. Check out Brian’s picks below and if you get a chance to pick up any of his work outside of his albums and books I’d highly recommend it. Keep an eye on Pups In Trouble to snag limited run shirts in lush tye-die that are nothing less than amazing.

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Anatomy of Design: Cut Worms

If it’s escaped your radar, the new Cut Worms is something of a heart-worn gem — an album that’s rooted in the lonesome cowboy strain that infected the West Coast rock songwriters from Gene Clark to Michael Nesmith. There’s an earnest nature to the record that’s bittersweet but able to walk into the wind and wilds with determination. Now while most know Max Clarke for his songwriting he is, in fact, an accomplished visual artist as well and his works have graced Cut Worms covers in the past, including the sculpture from 2018’s Hollow Ground. For the latest release, he’s created a series of inspired illustrations that mark each single on Nobody Lives Here Anymore. I spoke with Max about the ideas behind this new series and some of the design inspiration that drives him and his work.

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R.E. Seraphin on Empire – Expensive Sound

Ray Seraphin’s released a pair of great EPs over the past year and both have embraced a line between power pop and indie pop toggling the line of the ‘80s underground with a delicate grace. Over the years Ray has joined up with bands on the more punk half of the divide — Talkies, Apache, Buzzer — but as he’s moved further into the year Seraphin has been pushing into Sarah Records territory with ease and it looks good on him. I asked Ray to chip in a pick for the Hidden Gems series and he’s nabbed an underground favorite that’s a bit far from either end of his spectrum in terms of its source, but not so far from the tender impact that Seraphin’s music has on the listener. Check out his take on Empire’s Expensive Sound and hear how it came into his life.

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Lorena Quintanilla on Música Nueva Latinoamericana 2

I’ve been a longtime fan of Mexican shoegaze duo Lorelle Meets the Obsolte, and when I’d heard that the band’s Lorena Quintanilla had a solo album forthcoming (her second, sadly I’d slept on the first) I was incredibly intrigued what would arise. J. Zunz sophomore LP is a haunted, complex record that pulls as much from industrial spaces as it does experimental and concrete nodes. The LP focuses keenly on Quintanilla’s voice — echoing through spaces that seem cavernous and dangerous in the same light. I asked Lorena to contribute a pick to the Hidden Gems series, quite anxious to hear what treasure she might unearth and I’m not in the least disappointed. She’s given light to a series of Latin American electronic music that’s been sorely lost from the cultural conversation. Her pick centers on the inclusion of Jacqueline Nova, with whom I was unfamiliar, but quickly became quite intrigued by. Read on to see how the record has come into Lorena’s life and the impact it’s had on her songwriting.

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Sally Anne Morgan on Mr Fox – S/T

Before she embarked on this solo LP for Thrill Jockey the works of Sally Anne Morgan have found their way onto Raven in many forms. Her work with Black Twig Pickers has long been a favorite around here and both of her albums with Sarah Louise under the name House and Land are underung gems. So, when this solo LP arose I’d thought it was a perfect time to see if Morgan had a gem of her own in mind, given the she’s got such a beguiling handle on the whiles of folk, both modern and traditional. She has not disappointed, turning in a ‘70s Brit Folk gem that’s not often uttered in too many roundups of the form. Check out her take on the eponymous LP from Mr Fox below.

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David Lerner of Trummors on Cowboy – Reach For The Sky

I’ve been particularly excited for the upcoming Trummors LP, Dropout City. The LP sees David Lerner and Anne Cunningham perfecting their wide-skied country-folk approach with an album that’s sunburned and bittersweet. The album slides in on buttery leads, breezy harmonies, and a sense of ease that’s hard to resist. The band’s been building up to a record that sounds this effortless and lived-in over the past few years, but it’s hard to deny that this is a high-water mark for their brand of alt-country saunter. I asked David to lock in a pick for the Hidden Gems series and it sidles in nicely alongside their new LP. I love it when artists pick an album I’m unfamiliar with, but his one’s gonna be an album to get acquainted with pretty quick. Check out Lerner’s take on Cowboy’s 1970 debut below.

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Grace Cummings on Buffy Sainte-Marie – It’s My Way!

Hands down one of the most engrossing records that I came across last year was the Flightless debut from Australian songwriter Grace Cummings. Her scarred and furrowed songs were only rendered more so by her sonorous voice. She has the kind of stop you in your tracks delivery that would leave most listeners agape until the last note left the air. She’s followed the album up with an entry to the Looking Glass series for Mexican Summer that’s serves as a proper epilogue to the record and naturally that had me thinking that Grace might have a gem in her collection that she looks to. Shoulda thought of this when I was writing up the album, but of course Cummings is a natural fit for the storyteller power of Buffy Sainte-Marie. She recounts the impact of the songwriter’s essential ’64 debut on her own works.

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Frank Ene on Bambou – Made In China

On his own undersung gem of an album, Frank Ene put together a collection of songs that are deeply scarred, yet radiant. It’s a sound, that like his bandmate and producing partner Wymond Miles, references ‘80s aesthetics without becoming beholden to or bogged down in them. The goth slash across the album lets off a burn like dry ice — intense and cold, leaving a lasting mark on the listener. I asked Frank to pick out a gem of his own and he’s let us in on an ‘80s pop LP that likely slipped by us all. Check out below for Frank’s take on the sole ’89 LP from Bambou.

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