Week in Pop: D.A. Stern, Mary Ocher, Natural Velvet

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Ed Schrader’s Music Beat’s Week in Pop

The always entertaining universe of Ed Schrader’s Music Beat; photographed by Lissy Elle.

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat celebrates the release of their new Dan Deacon-produced album Riddles available now from Carpark Records the duo of Ed Schrader & Devlin Rice present their respective super stream of consciousness Week in Pop guest selections:

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat live at Alphaville; photographed by Alex Broadwell.


Tantrums and Tiaras

Tantrums and Tiaras, suggested to me by Drew Daniel and Martin Schmidt of Matmos, is a documentary shot by Eton John’s partner David Furnish. It follows Elton into every little nook and crannie of his hidden world. You get a really good sense of who he is in a pretty deep way. The scene where his mom tells him your dad never liked you is devastating and reveals much about him that I don’t think he’d ever let anyone see. He also has these hilarious neurotic freak outs like where someone simply goes yoo hoo over the fence to him while he’s playing tennis and he says something along the lines of pack up! we’re never coming to the south of France again! Though it also shows how insulated he becomes over time and cut off from the harsh reality of the possibility that perhaps he is no longer the center of the pop universe in the mainstreams eyes, a reality which his partner confronts him with, but hell we all know who’s queen! He keeps meticulous track of billboard top 100 in reems of notebooks which he fills every week as if somehow trying to capture the alchemy of making hits and he pretty much has. He also offers valuable advice like something to the effect of you can always make a living if you’re willing to put in the time on the road. This is true but ya gotta work very very hard—something Elton definitely does to a degree that is humbling and inspiring. I saw him live once and it was phenomenal!

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat bringing the passion; photographed by Alex Broadwell.

Cities of the Underworld

Cities of The Underworld is a short lived gem that existed about a decade ago for only a couple seasons. I was bed ridden for two weeks and I binged watched the hell out of this show! Hosted by a booming voiced mad man who inexplicably shaves his head midway through the first season and recaps everything he just said after EVERY commercial break, this bizarrely addictive show takes you below present day Edinburgh to view the buried streets of Blake Plauge era Scotland with store fronts still intact! It also covers a wide range of other locations including London where we get to see some cool Churchil stuff and New York where we learn about FDR’s secret underground train car that still exists beneath the unsuspecting foot steps Grand Central patrons as I type this! Nerds only.

Rocking around the clock with Ed Schrader’s Music Beat live at Alphaville; photographed by Alex Broadwell.

Trotsky Icepick, “Nightingale Drive”

Trotsky Icepick is my next pick! Specifically their song “Nightingale Drive”—a pop masterpiece clocking in at 2:20 off their sick! album Poison Summer. This is one of those great SST bands that influenced even the likes of Nirvana—note the flange effect and the “Come As You Are” riff essentially lifted by Kurt from “Set Still The Time” (the great ones always know where to steal from eh??) So many great tracks but def check out the slick goofball glory that is “Commissioner” that sounds like a cross between X / The Doors and just some awesome well intentioned nerds having a pot luck that will blast your face off! “Nightingale Drive” though is sublime—it is like your junior high principle goes home and walks into his basement pours a cool lemonade and says hey Charlie I wrote this the other night—it’s about kissing infinity! A wonder to behold—god bless Trotsky Icepick!

The pop world of Ed Schrader’s Music Beat; photographed by Alex Broadwell.

PJ Harvey, “Let England Shake”

My partner is a huge PJ Harvey fan as am I. Oddly enough I didn’t discover this until like seven years into our relationship when I was going through a box of her High School tapes and found To Bring You My Love—an album I once borrowed from my way cooler twin sister with impeccable taste! Anyhoo I was on tour and decided to surprise my partner for her birthday with a copy of Let England Shake. This is a master work from front to back—it chronicles the degradation of WW1 in all it’s lore and destructiveness while capruring the dark tender aspects of love, regret, and the inherent irony especially on the track “The Glorious Land”

How is our glorious country plowed?
Not by iron plows
How is our glorious country plowed?
Not by iron plows
Our lands is plows by tanks and feet,
Our lands is plows by tanks and feet,

…She really takes you right there.

Let’s Active, Cypress

Fronted by Mitch Easter or as we call him around my house the Phil Spector of the south (for audio reasons only), this band just has a sound that captures the 80’s Jangle pop era better than anyone -it’s no surprise that Mitch produced some of R.E.M.’s best work. He is one of those rare musicians /producers that somehow taps into the mainline from your dreams to his strings with haunting jams like “Waters Part” or “Easy Does” joined by the epic talent of composer Maggie Beck, bassist Faye Hunter, and Sara Romweber on drums, Cypress is a jewel to behold! “Blue Line” is a haunting number not to be missed! It hearkens back to “See Emily Play” with its ear worm synth line and proto-Kim Gordon vocals by Faye Hunter!

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat bringing the beat at Alphaville; photographed by Alex Broadwell.

Scharpling & Wurster, “The Best Show”

I grew up worshiping old episodes of Bob & Ray. Which was a mock day time variety show that somehow by the grace of god made it in to mainstream radio, hosted by Bob Elliot (father of the great Chris Elliot) and Ray Goulding. I would tape the old shows from the 50s off my radio when I was a kid and play them back hundreds of times! It’s brilliant dry slapstick humor that to the untrained ear came off as normal deadpan radio but when you listened close you heard the beuty and genius that make Bob and Ray timeless!
I never thought I’d come across anything that could match that but I gotta say Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster have shattered that doubt with their phenomenal weekly podcast The Best Show! The show started out on fantabulous radio station WFMU and moved to weekly podcast form about a few years ago. The show generally begins with Tom diving into phone calls after some brisk and hilarious cultural musings (think Lenny Bruce meets Mel Blanc) but it’s all about the phone calls where Tom plays judge, jury, and executioner to a myriad of personalities who either break his chops which he breaks back like a freaking pro or folks talking about their bar tending jobs and what films they’ve been watching or what candy bars they dig. He can take any call and turn it into some of the most brilliant and entertaining satire out there. He also does some great rants—def check out his Billy Crystal rant. But his partner in crime Jon Wurster (drummer of Super Chunk—one of my favorite bands ever-amongst other things) is the perfect match to Tom’s straight-man routine with suburb characters like Philly Boy Roy (an eccentric resident of Philadelphia) or (from a more recent episode) Ratt’s Bobby Blotzer (a dude who were led to believe is a former member of Ratt).
The two go back and forth in that Bob and Ray style but add something new and surreal that is quite frankly genius. They are to me the Ramones of comedy! Long live The Best Show! It is such a treat on the road and when I was going through some dark times those guys really made me laugh and brought lots of light into my life. Go listen right now!

The unstoppable beat of Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, live at Alphaville; photographed by Alex Broadwell.


Sparks, “No.1 Song in Heaven”

I always appreciate the sardonic and sarcastic angles to Sparks. They have so many great party jams and ones that are meant to have a sense of humor, but could no way be described as comedy somehow. Their simple funny reads of day to day situations, or their cultural satire songs that fantasize the plight of a person of the wealthy civilized world, are really smart and come across with the idea of “The Worlds Smallest Violin” playing for these rich asshats. Thats why I love this track so much, the whole record is great (La Dolce Vita goes to the above). “No.1 Song in Heaven” feels like a bit of a change and seems like a sincere send off for someone special. It’s upbeat vibe but wistful and gentle sentiments really captured a feeling that permitted the “Riddles” sessions for me. It’s not preachy but has a feeling that he is excited to tell you about this beautiful thing that is on the other side and thats everywhere here on Earth.

Fripp & Eno, “Evening Star”

Fripp Eno – Evening Star from León Pedrouzo on Vimeo.

Sorry about the dumb ads but it seems difficult to find this gorgeous album anywhere let alone a single track that doesn’t have some dumb new-agey vibe to it. I understand this is the problem with ambient music in general but this song and whole album is such an inspiration. For many years listening to this record it still is a great comfort to me. It is so familiar that it feels like a meditation where you can let your mind go and talk to yourself but feel like you have great wise company.

Eurythmics, “Jennifer”

This track has been a go to for me for the last few years. I love the seemingly stripped down Eurythmics songs. I was listening to them quite a bit while making the drive back and forth between Providence and Baltimore during the years spent recording Riddles. When I was younger I would listen to this Eurythmics greatest hits tape over and over trying to keep myself awake because I was afraid of vampires and, in some weird twist of logic, I thought that listening to something that the vamps would find cool would keep them away. I don’t pretend to understand the logic of that time but I think that most of us want to forget these stupid moments from our past. I have no idea why I shared this info with you, i guess it just build my connection with the band.

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat live in action; photographed by Alex Broadwell.

King Diamond, “The Family Ghost”

If I was left on an island and could only listen to one band for the rest of time,it would have to be King Diamond. Okay maybe not like end of time but if I was going to be sent into space, trust and believe I would have two Merciful Fate records (Melissa and Don’t Break the Oath) and King Diamond (Fatal Portrait to The Eye) for the rest of my life in the vacuum of space. Timi Hanssen is one of my favorite bass players ever and Mickey Dee the drummer on the first 4 King records is fantastic. I love everything in this video without a single ounce of irony.

Ed Schrader's Music Beat
Ed Schrader’s Music Beat bringing the passion; photographed by Alex Broadwell.

Black Sabbath, “Megalomania”

Sabotage was also one of the records I revisited during this process. Some of the baddest riffs ever on this record. Talk about the bass holding everything down!
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