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Shannon Shaw on Langley Schools Music Project

I’m thrilled to have garage icon Shannon Shaw as the latest contributor to the Hidden Gems series today. Shannon should be familiar to most through her work with Shannon and the Clams, and as the secret soul weapon in Hunx (formerly with his Punx). She’s a bastion of badass, a dynamic visual artist, and as even a cursory listen to The Clams would attest a superb appreciator of ’60s sounds. The series, as always, takes a look at albums lost in the cracks, underappreciated and looking for some love. This week, Shaw points some light on Hans Fenger’s collection of children’s choral explorations of ’60s pop. The album has found its own cult over the years, including among many of the artists covered. Shannon lets us in on how this gem came into her life and how it’s impacted her own music.

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Mikey Young on Third World War – S/T

There have been a lot of names on my wishlist for this feature, but standing near the top has been Mikey Young. If you’re unfamiliar, then you clearly reside outside of Australia, and have little to no interest in what’s currently pouring out of nation’s coffers lately. Young is a driving force of two of the best bands of the past decade, Eddy Current Suppression Ring and Total Control. Add to that a hand behind the boards on pretty much every other indie release that hits the shelves and it solidifies the fact that the man is beyond integral to the new wave of Australian indie. As with all entries to Hidden Gems, this feature seeks to find an album that’s been overlooked by the majority and shine a little light on it. Below Young tells how the proto-punk debut from Third World War came into his life and the impact its had on his own works.

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James Elkington on Robin Williamson – Myrrh

You might not immediately recognize James Elkington’s name but chances are you’ve heard his playing on songs by Jeff Tweedy, Wooden Wand, Richard Thompson, Steve Gunn, Michael Chapman, Joan Shelley, Nathan Salsburg or Tortoise. He’s a kind of sidmean’s sideman, a songwriter’s secret weapon who adds texture and depth to any song he graces. He’s steeped in the traditions of Basho, Fahey and Ayers with a touch that rivals his compatriot Steve Gunn in accessibility and nuance. As usual Hidden Gems explores the albums that inspire reverence in artists, the ones that they feel haven’t received due diligence. Elkington goes deep on a solo outing from the Incredible String Band’s Robin Williamson, and makes a case for a psych-folk classic lost to time.

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RSTB Best of 2017 (so far)

Is it already six months into 2017? Could that be possible? Though it seems there are a hundred other things to distract these days from musical output, it’s been a banner year in terms of albums meeting high expectations and some new surprises sneaking their way into rotation. Somehow, despite plenty of talent bubbling through other genres, it’s just felt right to embrace the blistering squall of psych, noise and punk these past few months. So, as usual, here are the albums that have spent most time on the turntable here. Presented in alphabetical order, its a pretty good roundup with six more months left on the clock.

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Design Inspiration: Jakob Skøtt

For the third installment of the site’s Design Inspiration series, I’m focusing on Jakob Skøtt, who wears triple hats at the excellent Danish label, El Paraiso Records. Skøtt is co-owner, member of the band Causa Sui and chief designer of the label’s aesthetic. That aesthetic struck me immediately as being one of the most cohesive and attractive since Sacred Bones took up arms 10 years ago. Like SB, the label hearkens back to the idea of library sleeves or serialized jazz, tying their catalog together through crisp typography and the faded hues of Skøtt’s paintings. There are very few labels that I stumble upon and immediately want to buy wholesale on sleeve art alone but El Paraiso makes the case for buying blind and assuming a quality product. Below are Jakob’s picks for his five favorite album covers.

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Matthew Melton on John Denver – Farewell Andromeda

Hidden Gems has become an opportunity to look into the inspirations that drive the artists I love around here, but it’s also revealed several layers to those I’d thought I had pegged. Case in point, for all his catalog leanings and past permutations I’d have figured that Matthew Melton would turn in an uncharted power pop gem, or given his latest direction in Dream Machine, perhaps a proto-metal nugget from beyond the grave. However, Melton went deep into the past to unearth some of his first musical inspirations with a look at John Denver’s under-celebrated 1973 album Farewell Andromeda. I asked Matthew how this album came into his life and how it’s affected his work.

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RSTB Presents: 120 Seconds

Introducing a new feature that will stand alongside the site today. In addition to regular coverage here, I’m starting up a video series that will focus on new music via two minute videos. I’ll spare you the boredom of watching me talk awkwardly into a camera trying not to look as if I’m reading in one direction and speaking in another. Instead the series will indulge a ’90s nostalgia for cut ‘n paste video sequencing doused in a particular bent of pop culture fixation and rounded up into two minute bites. Basically this exists because I watched too much TV as a child. The first episode is below and it features Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Peacers, School Damage and Bleached.

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James Jackson Toth on Japan – Tin Drum

The latest installment of Hidden Gems comes from a longtime RSTB favorite. I think it’s fair to say that without Wooden Wand, Raven wouldn’t have shaped up the way it did in those early years. When I happened on a great set by James, billed to open for Jack Rose in a cramped bar in Greenpoint back in 2005, Harem of the Sundrum and the Witness Figg quickly became a fixture on the turntable and a desire to spread some of the WW gospel was born. Below Toth shares a record that’s made an impact in his own life and how it crept in and took hold.

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Ben Chasny on Keiji Haino, Mikami Kan and Yoshizawa Motoharu

Chalkin’ up another great installment of Hidden Gems, RSTB’s series in which one of my favorite artists picks out an album that hasn’t gotten proper due in the scheme of things and shines a bit of light on it. I’ve found that the picks can often illuminate not only a deserving overlooked album, but also give insight as to where the chooser’s own sound developed from, and this entry from Ben Chasny is a prime example. Ben’s picked a PSF classic, the very seldom sung Live In The First Year Of The Heisei (Volume’s I and II), by collaborative trio Keiji Haino, Mikami Kan and Yoshizawa Motoharu. Technically its two albums, but who’s to get picky around here. Ben gives his take on what makes this such a slept on piece of culture and how it’s played an important role in his own music.

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Ripley Johnson on Fabulous Diamonds – Commercial Music

Starting off the new year right with a new edition of Hidden Gems from Ripley Johnson (Moon Duo, Wooden Shjips). Hidden Gems explores albums that haven’t gotten their proper due over the years, as picked by RSTB’s favorite artists. Ripley selected Aussie psych duo Fabulous Diamonds’ third album Commercial Music, which was released by Chapter Music in 2012. Ripley explains why the album is such a slept on treasure and the impact its had on his own music.

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