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James Hoare on East Village – Drop Out

For the latest installment of Hidden Gems I asked James Hoare (of Ultimate Painting, Veronica Falls, Permanent Ornaments) to pick a lost piece of his personal music landscape. As always, Hidden Gems is based on the idea of those records that are found along the way in life that you can’t believe you never heard about, the ones that just blow you away on first listen and seem like such a find. They’re the kind of records that get left out of all the essential decade lists and 1001 records you need to hear before you die type of listicle… the ones that truly got away. For this installment in the series James picked overlooked UK jangle gem Drop Out from East Village. I asked James how this lovely record came into his life and what the record means to him.

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Design Inspiration: Jason Galea

This is the second installment of RSTB’s look at the influences that drive the designers behind some of my favorite album covers. Stepping up to the spotlight, Jason Galea opens up about some favorite album covers that have influenced his style. Jason is the designer behind pretty much anything visual that’s connected to Aussie psych warriors King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, plus The Murlocs and the Tame Impala side-project Gum. Galea has also done all of the band’s insane video work and kicked in on a few great Aussie garage comps including the Nuggets comp compiled by Lenny Kaye. The first thing that drew me into King Gizz back when 12 Bar Bruise came out was the artwork, and the triple gatefold on Oddments ranks among my own favorite covers. Its truly using the LP format to its full potential. Below are Jason’s picks that span some recent garage gems and and plenty of psych oddities.

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Wolf People on T.S. McPhee, Iron Claw, Charlies and Rev. Charlie Jackson

The latest edition of Hidden Gems is an epic one, each member of UK psych faves Wolf People picked a record they thought hadn’t gotten the attention it’s deserved over the years. As always, the idea of Hidden Gems is to highlight those albums and bits of music, that while not necessarily obscure, haven’t gotten their full due in the course of music history and the band digs deep to find some examples of music that’s been left off the ledger. Each member of the band picks a record that’s hit home for them in a meaningful way.

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Design Inspiration: Robert Beatty

Another new feature at RSTB begins today, this one taking a look at designers that have proven above and beyond the average sleeve jockey. Sleeve art has always proven to be more than just decorative dressing for an album, oftentimes it can be as integral and inseparable from an album as any song gracing the sides. And while they say you can’t judge a book (or album) by its cover, we often do just that, so designers can act as the gatekeepers of taste. Of recent designers, I can think of few that have been proving more of an inspiration to psychedelic savants than Robert Beatty. His style evokes classic silkscreen techniques and custom painted vans from the ’70s. He’s got an eye for the surreal and a feel for color that’s made him a favorite of everyone from Real Estate and Thee Oh Sees to Oneohtrix Point Never, culminating in his most famous run last year on Tame Impala’s Currents and its surrounding singles. In this new series, I’ve asked designers to go pick the works that inspire them, choosing five of their favorite album covers and explaining how they’ve influenced their style. Robert’s picks are below, spanning from Tropicalia to a collab between Stereolab and The High Llamas, each one peeling back a layer of Beatty’s iconic style.

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Morgan Delt on The Pretty Things – Philippe DeBarge

The third installment of Hidden Gems is upon us. Hidden Gems is based on the idea of those records that are found along the way in life that you can’t believe you never heard about, the ones that just blow you away on first listen and seem like such a find. They’re the kind of records that get left out of all the essential decade lists and 1001 records you need to hear before you die type of listicle… the ones that got away. For this installment in the series, I asked Morgan Delt to take his pick at an essential piece of the past. He picked The Pretty Things’ lost album with French singer and socialite Philippe DeBarge. I asked Morgan how this psychedelic odyssey and true lost classic came into his life and what the record means to him.

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Wymond Miles on Jacobites – Robspierre’s Velvet Basement

Hidden Gems is based on the idea of those records that are found along the way in life that you can’t believe you never heard about, the ones that just blow you away on first listen and seem like such a find. The kind of records that get left out of all the essential decade lists and 1001 records you need to hear before you die type of listicle. The ones that got away. For the second installment in the series, I asked Wymond Miles, member of Fresh & Onlys and solo artist in his own right to take his pick at an essential piece of the past. He picked Nikki Sudden & Dave Kusworth’s 1985 sophomore LP as the Jacobites, Robspierre’s Velvet Basement. I asked Wymond how this lovely piece of the post-punk landscape came into his life and what the record means to him.

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RSTB Best of 2016 (so far)

Ok, so deep down I know that the half-year best-of rundown is becoming an expected bit of mid-year clickbait listicle self-love. It’s a totem that’s somewhat unnecessary, seeing how at the end of the year votes get tallied and the same releases get pondered. But since I also have the nagging gnaw that a culture of collective consciousness music press will result in plenty of homogeneous diatribes about what’s been considered the cream of ’16, I figure that it’s worth it to shine some light on a few deserving entities that are gonna to be left out of the party.

Some outlets have gone so far as to tell the world that 2016 has been super stressful for them, what with all the surprise albums needing their immediate attention. Sleepless nights in the review mines, I’m sure. Caffeinated burns through the wee hours that are called upon because absorption of albums over time is heresy these days. No time to listen deep because those other sites are stealin’ your views, siphoning clicks, and by next week those cuts will be far too stale to talk about anyhow. RSTB’s always there to let you know that sometimes its OK to let an album fester under your skin a while. Review it late, review it early, but maybe listen long enough to learn how it impacts you—or at least how it sounds in the car vs. the speakers vs. the headphones.

I’m starting to think that sometimes best should be more relative and less quantitative, and maybe it might be fun if there were a few more outlets with a true voice. But, so went the airwaves, so go the reviews, eh? Ah, maybe I’m just old fashioned. Anyhow, here are the picks. Remember RSTB is never content (n.), and never content (adj.).

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Glenn Donaldson on The Television Personalities – The Painted Word

Hidden Gems is based on the idea of those records that are found along the way in life that you can’t believe you never heard about, the ones that just blow you away on first listen and seem like such a find. The kind of records that get left out of all the essential decade lists and 1001 records you need to hear before you die type of listicle. The ones that got away. In the first installment I tapped Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, Art Museums, Jewelled Antler Collective) to have his pick at a record that fits the bill. Glenn’s Twitter feed alone is full of enough overlooked classics to fill this feature ten times over, so needless to say I was intrigued. He’s picked Television Personalities’ fourth album, the darkly shaded, The Painted Word. I asked him how the record came into his life and how its affected him and his music.

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Strange Feelings: The Twinkeyz’ Alpha Jerk Resurrected

That the Twinkeyz were overlooked wasn’t shocking, but rather saddening. They released three singles and an album that burned too bright, but unfortunately also too scarce for the general populace. Coupled with their inability to tour widely, it added up to the kind of all too familiar tale of a great band shuttled to obscurity. Formed in 1977 by Donnie Jupiter (nee Marquez) and Tom Darling, the band proved to be more at home in the studio than on the live front. They played their hometown of Sacramento, but their immediate sphere of influence remained local and largely relegated to their home base of Moon Studios, helmed by friend and engineer Dave Houston. There they would lay down their own brand of power pop with a heavy infection of experimental impulses and outsider aura.

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RSTB Most Overlooked

So, here it is. Raven has turned 10, which means that I’ve been doing this for a friggin’ decade at this point and I have to say, it hasn’t been a bad ride. With the site’s turn into the double digits it seemed time for a new coat of paint, which you may notice in the form of our new design and move to the proper .com address.

I spent quite a bit of time pouring over the site’s past in the last few months leading up to this relaunch and while I will work to get some larger features going this year, I’m not going to make lists a regular part of the site, outside of the mid-year and year-end wrap ups. I’ve never been a fan of running down rut-worn lists of records based on a loosely tied theme. But…nostalgia begged a bit and I came across several posts on records I thought just never got a fair shake. Its not a list of my best of the last ten years, those you can probably put together yourself from year end lists, rather these are some great records that just never seemed to garner enough yelling about them.

However, rest assured that despite a new look, the ethos of RSTB will remain largely the same. I’ll still focus on reviews that don’t get too gabby, some videos and now a short bit on tracks that are exciting from releases to come. There will still be a focus on the physical formats and prods to buy them, because paying artists for music you can hold in your hands will always be a good idea. So, without further adieu… the list.

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