To round out 2016, WKDU DJs wrote about their music memories of the year. We’ll share some each day until New Year’s Eve. Here are the first two, and stay tuned for more tomorrow!
All People are led by Greg Rodrigue and Daniel “D-Ray” Ray. I met Greg last winter at a café he co-runs in New Orleans. I was buying a Woozy record, and we talked a bit. He also co-runs Community Records with Ray, home of bands like Woozy, Caddywhompus, and Pope.
Rodrigue and Ray trade lead and backup vocal duties throughout their self-titled album, as the band takes a step forward from 2015’s Learn Forget Repeat, helped by the addition of guitarist Josh Campbell. Rodrigue emphasizes each word, bringing a haunted energy at points. “Now I’m in the ground, do you miss me now?” he sings in “Naught”, the existential lead single. Side 1 ends with “Moonsteps”, a groovy jam that brings together some of the best parts of the band – it kicks off Ray’s energetic keyboards, followed by a killer baseline from Rodrigue, before settling into a smooth rhythm.
“Moon Steps” is the album’s centerpiece, a shot of light before the band winds down. Side 2 is much calmer than Side 1, and “Balloon” is nearly a ballad. Ray’s trombone plays a prominent role, taking the lead on “New Rain”, the penultimate track and a thoughtful instrumental. “Of You” caps off All People, peacefully fading away as the trombone wonders on. As far as punk albums go, All People is one of 2016’s most unique, and Ray and Rodrigue work well to create a cohesive, emotional effort.
All People is out May 20th on Community Records.
In March of 2014, I saw Radiator Hospital play for the first time. It was at a coffee shop in University City, and free donuts were given out for someone’s birthday. Try the Pie played one of her first shows, Crabapple played one of their last, and Sam Cook-Parrot’s band Radiator Hospital closed out the night. Stupid Bag Records honcho & RH drummer Jeff Bolt was selling tapes, so I picked up a copy of Great Thunder’s Strange Kicks EP, the only tape I ever bought.
I listened to Strange Kicks a lot after that. It even included a Mazzy Star cover. Great Thunder was Keith Spencer (of Swearin’) and Katie Crutchfield (of Waxahatchee), often noted as KS and KC. With Waxahatchee taking off and the years passing by, the lineup of Great Thunder has become a little less clear; one bio simply says “K and an ever changing line-up of incredibly talented people.” Naturally, Great Thunder & Radiator Hospital have been tied ever since. Imagine my excitement when Stupid Bag, back in May of 2015, noted that a Great Thunder & Radiator Hospital split LP was on its way. I’d been waiting ever since, unsure of what to expect.
A few weeks ago, The Wedding Album finally arrived. There were some updated old songs, new songs, covers, and collaborations. Great Thunder’s side came first, and started off with a couple of originals. KS & KC were both singing – the GT I knew. “I Was Fine Before” originally appeared on Sounds of Great Thunder, but is revamped three times the length. “I Can’t See the Sun” is the catchiest song of the year, and in a surprising twist, the light-hearted RH song “Big Cloud” is covered with professional production. The next song eventually revealed itself as a dark, sludgy version of RH’s “Sleeping House”. The sounds of Great Thunder embody many different textures, after all.
Radiator Hospital kicks off Side B with “Parting Glances”, from his split with Fred Thomas. It has much more percussion than typical RH songs and the whole side has a softer touch to it. Cook-Parrot’s regular bandmates are absent from this recording, so the quick pace of Torch Song falls away as well. “Old Me” is a new song, with a vocal cameo by KS, followed by KC helping out on “Waiting for You to Come Around”, a Strange Kicks highlight. “Singer’s No Star” is one of GT’s best songs, and Crutchfield join’s Cook-Parrot in a beautiful rendition. The Wedding Album closes with the devastating “Absent Year”. Cook-Parrot reminds us that he writes the best ballads, and Crutchfield has a wonderful verse, before he tears the song back. “And I’ve been waiting for so long / Oh I don’t want you to be gone / If you wanted me to dance / Why didn’t you say so?”
The Great Thunder & Radiator Hospital Wedding Album is one of the best of 2016; a truly special collaboration between three of Philadelphia finest musicians. Projects like this are often done for fun, but this is a fully realized piece of art. It was recorded in 2014, and while the wait was long, it was more than worth it. Listen to the album, and trace its roots for an even deeper experience.
Chronovision features Oberhofer’s signature amped psych-pop with orchestral flourish, New Wave flare, and grungy fuzz, but multiplied with his intensity that only time and life’s gut checks can enhance. The road to Chronovision was winding, owing to Oberhofer’s resolve to produce the LP himself and initially taking him from the Catskills to Seattle and back. A final spurt brought him to a studio in his hometown of Tacoma, two NYC facilities (Strange Weather, Electric Lady), and the former Sound City in Los Angeles. Lastly: Atlanta to mix with Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Washed Out). Exactly 106 demos later, Oberhofer emerged with these 12 songs.