This week’s curator: Amanda Petrusich of Pitchfork and the New York Times.
Every two weeks, titans of the mediasphere give Nerve their music recommendations. This week: Amanda Petrusich, a contributor to Pitchfork and the New York Times, and author of the 33 1/3rd book Nick Drake’s Pink Moon and It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and The Search for the Next American Music.
1. Unheard Ofs and Forgotten Abouts, 1916-1964 (From the 78 rpm Record Collection of Frank Fairfield)
For the last couple of years, I’ve been working on a project about collectors of super-rare, pre-war blues 78s. It’s an oddball fraternity of dudes, for sure, but the preservationist work these collectors do is also depressingly underappreciated. 78s are fragile, finite objects, and serious collectors rescue these songs — gorgeous, vital things! — from extinction. Frank Fairfield is a twenty-four-year old singer and songwriter from California, and his label, Tompkins Square Records, has begun digitizing and releasing some 78s from his personal collection. This is the first installment, and there’s no obvious theme, which means you get to hear Slim Barton and James Moore, Scottish bagpipers, Sudanese wandering minstrels, and Yagi-bushi from Japan.
2. I’m Going Where the Water Drinks Like Wine: 18 Unsung Bluesmen, Rarities 1923-1929
Given the itinerant nature of the genre, piecing together a comprehensive history of blues music can feel like something of an idiot’s errand. But this new collection goes impressively, mind-bendingly broad, focusing on twenty-four of the less-mythologized greats — so, no Robert Johnson or Charley Patton, but revelatory tracks by Noah Lewis, Ishman Bracey, Andrew Baxter, and Sylvester Weaver
3. The Insect Trust, Hoboken Saturday Night
I’m still a record-store girl at heart; sometimes I need to expunge the blog-chatter, walk into a record shop, open my wallet and ask the owner for the best record he or she has that I haven’t heard yet, which is exactly how I brought home Hoboken Saturday Night from Sound Fix. The really incredible thing is that it took me at least three months of listening before I realized The Insect Trust features Robert Palmer — the New York Times pop critic and author of Deep Blues, possibly my favorite music writer of all time — on clarinet. This is woozy, weird, raucous rock n’ roll, circa 1970, and it is fantastic.
4. Male Bonding, Nothing Hurts
I tend to gravitate towards music that feels a little tenuous, a little scrappy, like maybe the entire enterprise is about to dissemble itself. Male Bonding — a British punk trio that just released its debut LP on Sub Pop — has exactly that energy for me.
5. Mountain Man, Made the Harbor
2010 has seen a slew of bands and artists impressively re-imagine Appalachian folk music, and an awful lot of them have been from Vermont, which I suppose makes a certain amount of sense. Mountain Man is — somewhat counter-intuitively — a trio of young women who sing ancient-sounding folksongs in impeccable, haunting three-part harmony. Their debut is out now in the U.K. and comes out later this summer in the U.S.