I’ve been getting a lot more letters from small, enthusiastic micro-labels like this one from Texas:
My name is Colin Wheeler and I run Olympic Dreams Records along with my roommate Daniel Martinez. We are a DIY cassette label based in Denton, TX.
Daniel and I were at a party back in July when we had the idea to start a record label in Denton. We realized there were a lot of fantastic bands around and the music scene was big enough, but no one was really putting themselves out there or making major “releases” of the albums they were making, aside from burning CDs for their friends with their band name on it in Sharpie. It was then that we also came to see the DIY nature of Denton bands and how seriously they took their music. We really wanted those hard-working acts to have a quality product to be proud of and to sell at their shows to compliment their music. And we decided, what better format than cassette tape? We knew of the history of cassette tape culture and the DIY nature of it all - it just felt right.
Suddenly we found ourselves on the prowl through thrift stores scrounging for cheap blank cassettes, used cassette decks, stereo receivers, wires, cables - what have you - until we had a collection that we thought was acceptable to start Olympic Dreams. Since July we had been talking to a local bedroom chillwave artist called Goldeen, the moniker of instrumentalist Joshua Serrano. We loved his tracks ( he’s still one of the best artists in Denton, in our opinion) and we thought his story fit perfectly with what we were going for - an unknown college kid pouring his heart into his music, playing one man shows for a one man audience (and loving it), and then going home to his apartment to write some more. We recorded his tapes ourselves, printed the sleeves out at the university’s printing center, made some jacket patches from old ripped up work shirts, packaged them up and sold them to a few show goers. We were very happy with the product, and we got him a sizable fanbase, but we still felt like it wasn’t enough.
We then went on to release a cassette from a local math-pop band called Bashe. By then we had more of an idea of what we were doing, so we decided to start off with a run of 20 cassettes to sell at their upcoming show at a local music festival in Denton. We ended up selling all 20 within an hour at their show. A week’s worth of work sold in an hour. Keep in mind I was recording these cassettes one by one in my bedroom on a thrift store set-up, 60 minutes for each cassette. We recently started getting orders in from people out of state asking for our cassettes, and we’re trying to find the time to fit in the recording and going to school. By now our apartment looks like an old audiophile’s junkyard - a hundred or so blank tapes stacked up on our living room table, 3 beat-up cassette decks, 2 old stereo receivers, countless thrift store-bought speakers (some shitty, some surprisingly awesome), cables everywhere - you get it.
We’ve got three or four artists lined up now for our next releases, and we couldn’t be happier, or more stressed out. We’re really grateful that we’re in such a great community as Denton, and even more grateful for the artists that we’ve worked with, and will work with soon. Speaking of which, our next artist up for a release is a Dallas/Denton based electronic artist called Small Topography.
Thank you so much for reading!! (By the way, we love your blog)
Chrissy Tashjian wrote me this excellent letter about fighting anxiety with rock n’ roll, and her this crushing single:
My name is Chrissy. I’m a 27-year-old guitar-playing, construction-working, beer-drinking, loud-laughing, Queer ball of love and anxiety. I know many people say this but I think that rock and roll has literally saved my life.
I’m from the suburbs directly west of West Philadelphia and grew up in a big, amazing Armenian/Irish/Polish/Catholic family - most of whom played music. I have fond memories of watching my dad’s band play Black Sabbath songs, and I started playing in bands myself when I was in middle school. It was also around this time I started to get really afraid of going to school, leaving the house, or my comfort zone in general. These anxieties grew and grew until I was about 16, when it got so bad that even if I made it to school, I could barely stay in the classroom. I went to therapy and was diagnosed agoraphobic with a panic disorder.
Despite these anxieties, I had decided to go to art school after graduation (hah). With some therapy, I was able to move downtown and go to college, but I lived in a very crippled way. By this time I had started avoiding almost anything that caused me feelings of panic: elevators, classrooms, highways, bridges, public transportation. I was able to make it to school, but after a few bad break-ups, and several agoraphobic depressive periods, I was unable to handle the pressure and anxiety and eventually dropped out of school.
I moved all over Philly (eventually meeting and dating my current partner and soon-to-be band mate) and formed Dangerous Ponies with my brother and other friends/musicians in the Philly scene. I had always been so afraid, but finally there was something that mattered to me more than my primal fight-or-flight reactions to anxiety. My friends and family in Dangerous Ponies were the most supportive, caring and patient people I know. They, and especially my partner, really helped me become a regular person! On our first 7-day tour, I laid in the backseat of the car all the way to Austin and back and took many, many drugs to make it through the trip. 3 years after that on our last major tour, we went out for two months across the country and I didn’t use one drug (other than Tetris on an old Game Boy).
Dangerous Ponies ran its course until we split amicably. Kyle Pulley (who played guitar in DP) and I decided to join forces and wrote new material and found a new drummer; Pat Brier, who had also just left his old band, Tigers Jaw. We made Thin Lips and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I feel really blessed to be where I am, and learn what I’ve learned; but it’s still difficult. That is essentially what “Gemini Moon” is about. This song is short and angry…. It’s about feeling insanely frustrated about feeling stuck in the same mental feedback loop of anxieties, wanting to change and not knowing how, and figuring what parts are just intrinsically you and what parts are able to change and grow.
I hate starting posts with “oh, snap, it’s Fridayyyyy” but here I am again doing it. Why? Because everyone loved Friday, duh. And since it’s that time of the week where you’re gonna need a pick-me up in one fashion or another, I share this song from Brooklyn with you. Get loose. Drink up.
Carey Sveen (“5 foot 7 in flats, born in Norway, wore an eyepatch until age ten, drives a Thunderbird”), Chris Gullian (“165 lbs, favorite colour White, enjoys sunsets, monkey tennis, and offshore racing.”) and Mark Griffey (“Brunette, loves pork chops, meditating, cross country skeet shooting, and has his own place.”) have this song start off their excellent release called Getting Away with It EP.
I’ve been a big fan of this slow-output Brooklyn dreampop project that’s been dripping out unbelievably excellent singles about once a year, by my count. Don’t hesitate to envelope this new single - a-side to their equally beautiful and French “Trio" single.
Fitting that my dear friend Norm Fetter makes new age music as a side project to his growing mushroom farm business. He and I have talked for hours about how heavily zone’d tunes have been making a comeback for good reason. Consider: excellent Seattle label Light in the Attic’s Best New Reissue compilation I Am the Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990. Good to see the space is getting some respect, but don’t think it ended in 1990. There’s soul left in that deep well.
Pick up his fresh cassette Holographic Headdress EP from Sacred Phrases.
Clare Maguire makes us weep once more (she owes us a full box of tissues so far) with new demo Half-Hearted Love, another taste of the singer-songwriter’s forthcoming, much-teased new record. Co-written by Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, it could have easily been released late ’70s/early ’80s, as it just breathes vintage pop from start to finish. Fierce yet toren down, the London starlet is set to make us re-live that glorious period - at least musically, that is.
God, this song is perfect. And I’m not only saying that because we get to use Crying’s track in TinyCast’s intro/outro, making our podcast sound a hundred times more awesome than it probably is.
Weeks after writing my Get Olde review, I keep coming back to this song for so many reasons: The first, tentative beeps. When singer Elaiza Santos confesses, “All I care to do is sip on beer and chocolate milk,” stretching that last word into two syllables somehow.
How Santos sighs, “I’m just ES,” and it sounds almost like an admission of an affliction (something like SAD), instead of an affirmation of identity (her initials). And that it’s not just a great chiptune track; it’s a great song without any need for qualifiers.
Got this note about family, love and death from Austin’s Scott Butler who I’ve covered a few times with collaborators Landon Thompson and John Aldridge.
This is Scott. I am an adult man who cries a lot, like a widowed duchess in a novel, a two year old in a fabric store, or someone five minutes into the movie Up. It’s not cute.
The work for our upcoming album Strange Figurines began in 2010. I had written a song which I called ‘Newlyweds.’ I demoed it and thought that it would sound better with a female vocalist - which is likely true for everything I demo. I asked my wife Adrienne (we were newlyweds at the time, after all) if she was willing to try singing it.
After 9 years together, it’s easy to feel that your partner cannot surprise you. It’s understandable. Once you’ve farted in front of each other, it’s sort of like ‘Oh, okay. I guess that’s that.’ I had never heard Adrienne’s singing voice. Not in the car, not in the shower, not in our blessedly rare (and strictly seasonal) visits to church - nowhere. Her mother swore Adrienne could sing, but …mothers… am I right? After a few drinks, Adrienne agreed to try, warning me that it would be terrible and not to laugh or be a total dick about it. She went into the bathroom - my very fancy isolation booth (with its very own toilet!) closed the door, and quietly blew my mind.
She didn’t have a great voice in the traditional sense, not like I put on the headphones and Bernadette Peters was in my bathroom. She had a great voice in the sense that it was honest, charming and disarming. Like my favorite Brazilian singers, it was soft and sweet and sounded like communication, not exaggeration or exhortation.
I sent the demo to the band with no explanation of what they would hear. When I got a response it was not the one I expected. Landon said, “Adrienne should be in the band.” It was as un-Yoko a response as one could get. So we did and she is.
For this album, we chose to work with local legend, producer, drummer and all around handsome dude, Danny Reisch. I could write an entire letter to you (which would look exactly like a middle school love letter, replete with hearts and unicorns in the margins) about the experience working with him. I will keep it short and say that he is the most talented person I’ve ever met – and brought out the best in me and the band. I am not an easy personality. I am a control freak, but I am a lazy control freak who throws his hands up at the slightest sign of compromise. Danny was able to navigate the band’s often-treacherous terrain with Sherpa-like poise. The end result is an album which contains easily our best work as a band, and the most finely tuned.
Since we began the process of making Strange Figurines, our little worlds have changed - deaths, births, marriage, major career changes, etc. My older brother, who was also my most constant critic and closest friend, died recently. The first time he saw The Black and White Years playing (our first very glamorous show at a pizza place,) he said, “Keep doing that Talking Heads-y sort of thing. That works for you.” I guess I didn’t realize that’s what we were doing. Months later, we were recording with Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads and Modern Lovers. Stephen was the type of guy who saw right through to the heart of things and called them as he saw them, for better or for worse. We never discussed my band much. We seemed to talk about everything other than the band. After he died, my parents found all our albums and stuff in a box in his room. Did he like the band and not want to embarrass me - feel like he was jerking me off? Did he hate it and not want to offend me by criticizing my music the way he did everything else? I’ll never know. But he kept the records; at least that. I miss him. I cry a lot.
The song which I’m including with this letter is called “Little One.” It’s the first single off of our upcoming Strange Figurines – coming out January 21st. It’s about the impossibility of living up to the standards set by our fathers and their fathers. My dad is an engineer who has worked for the same company for over 50 years and raised 5 children. He was in the Army. My grandfather fought in WW2 and worked in a steel mill. I am a weepy adult who writes music, works in retail and has a baffling combination of self-loathing and narcissism. You see where I’m going with this?
I appreciate that you have made it this far into this letter. You win an ending! There are other songs on the album I like better, but this is the one which everyone else seems to like best. I hope you’re one of those. Enjoy!
Ughhh. I am currently fawning over every single second of this track, along with every blessed moment of the 13 other songs in this Olympia, Washington’s stunning masterpiece. Simply perfect. Sublime essence.
Fairly certain this is going to sell out in about 3 seconds after y’all repost the shit out of this song, so go and buy one of the 200 copies on cassette as soon as possible. Holy Page Records will thank you for it.
"I’ve made up my mind," "I don’t know anything," "But I love you," goes the refrain from the first single from one of my favorite artist’s upcoming album. Having heard this song sung in person on stage a couple months ago was a treat then, but so happy to hear the ‘final cut’ recorded.
Got this beautiful song and nice note this weekend from Bryce Barsten, one of a Brooklyn trio with Kurt Woerpel and Michael Steiner:
I was born and raised on a llama farm in Greenacres, Washington. Just a short drive from Idaho, home of the potato. I was born into a family of 30 llamas, plus my sister. I am thankful today for my incredible experience of living in the country on a farm, with acres of green grass to play on as a child. Most importantly, I was taught the meaning of hard work! My mother comes from a Mexican/Hispanic heritage, and my father a Ukrainian/Polish. You can imagine what I look like. Hint: it’s furry and it spits.
Anyway, I played music all throughout high school in multiple bands, as most musicians do, until I found a band that had some serious chemistry. We worked extremely hard, until it was time for college, and we booked our last show (which was to be the biggest) to open up for Everclear. That night I received a small taste of what it’s like to perform in front of a large audience. The most important aspect of music to me is the connection between the music and the listener. The raw emotion I get when I listen to music is the feeling I want to give others. It was that night that felt truly connected to a thousand people I didn’t even know. They were strangers. People I would never see again.
Since then I moved to NYC to study 3D animation and to pursue music. Two years went by before I found someone I connected with musically. This time felt special. My writing style changed a lot, and music began to take on a new meaning. Our music together (as Noble Kids), feels real, and honest. We try to keep things simple, but interesting. We take a lot of influence from the Fleet Foxes, and Justin Vernon. Both using angelic harmonies, and destructive yet beautiful progressions to create their sound. We’ve been writing for a year now, and saved up enough money to record a small 4 song EP (titled “Kingdom”) at a studio in Brooklyn. We just released it a week ago.
I am humbled by your blog, and appreciate the time you’ve taken to read and consider our music. Feel free to offer our music for free download, or to stream anywhere you’d like (if you’re into it of course). Once again, thank you for your time, and support. I hope you enjoy.
Last summer, I shared a sexsong single called “Smudge" by these guys who’ve been hustling on putting together an album since that time. The stars are coming together now, and if I may please you, meet you, love you, and smudge you, its my pleasure to share w you some more hot pop nights from the deeps of Bucks County, PA.
To say that I’ve become friends with a lot of artists that I post about here is the nice way of saying we’re casual pals who I’ve hung out once at a show, or chatted online in some fashion. When I met Dan, we then became IRL neighbors, then co-workers, then budz. It’s beautiful, man.
Bear Hands returned with their new hook-filled single “Giants”. It’s the first piece of new music from the group since 2012’s Songs from Utopida, Vol. 1. The single, out via Cantora Records, showcases the NYC four piece’s knack for mixing pop sensibilities with moving, synth-filled dancefloor beats.
Jimmy Magliozzi is one of those artists that I have been rooting for since as far back as 2010, since I first covered his song “White Dress”. I have watched his sound continue to enthrall me again and again, and is one of those indie artists that continues to somehow fly under the radar. Stoked to see him plus-up into now a three-piece w Nathan Paul and Jackworth Smith.
Look for his new album of “bedroom basement band in bloom” called their The Want LP, out soon.