Valley Queen: What Are You Listening To?
Rising rock band Valley Queen has left quite the impression, with their ’70s rock-influenced debut album, Supergiant, that re-affirms a lost sound in rock music, but manages to sound refreshed and updated for modern times. Lead singer Natalie Carol curated a playlist of tunes for TIDAL of her current rotation.
Lucinda Williams, “Sharp Cutting Wings (Song to a Poet)”
I feel a kinship with Lucinda Williams because she was born in Arkansas, like me. There’s something special and musical about that state. Levon Helm and Johnny Cash are also from Arkansas. Anyway, her dad, Miller Williams, was a poet and professor at University of Arkansas. I hear the influence of her poetic upbringing in her writing. She’s refreshing to me because she uses a lot of the same chords for a lot of her songs, but she’s so dynamic in her vocal phrasing and writing. I never get bored with her. She’s a true writer. Love you, Lucinda.
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, “Shiggy”
Occasionally, albums come into my life that I absorb very deeply. I listen to them over and over again. I dance to them, I talk about them a lot, I integrate the album into my life very intensely and it colors a certain time of life or season. The Jicks’ Sparkle Hard album has been that album for me this year. I’m starting to refer to Malkmus as Uncle Steve, because I feel like he’s become this pivotal figure in indie rock for musicians. A lot of his writing, even in Pavement, creates a very raw and refreshing commentary of what it means to be in a band. It feels like I’m getting encouragement from my very badass, always-gonna-be-cooler-than-me uncle.
Just to follow up on my current Malkmus deep dive, I’m including this song from Pavement’s record, Wowee Zowee. I’m crushed by the guitar tones on this song. I went digging and found a Malkmus interview with Marc Maron where he revealed the special tuning he used for this song, which gives it that deep, heart pulverizing sensation. It just socks you in the face. Thanks, Uncle Steve.
LUMP, “Curse of the Contemporary”
LUMP is a new project by Mike Lindsay and Laura Marling. Valley Queen went on tour with Laura last year. She and I have played some shows in LA. We toured with her on the release of one of her solo album, Semper Femina. That’s certainly worth a listen, as well. It’s deeply feminine and poetic. This song of LUMP’s is different. It’s like ’60s British psychedelic pop. The rest of the self-titled album diverges from there. Marling is an enigmatic figure in the music community, you can’t guess what she’s going to do next. She’s always digging and finding new things she is capable of. I’m excited by her.
William Tyler, “Parliament of Birds”
Tyler is local to LA and I see him walking around Highland Park a lot, with headphones on. He puts on free residencies around town and I feel like I’m stealing some shiny ruby by getting to see him play for free. His work is mostly instrumental. He plays around a lot with open tunings and creates some really evocative and stunning scapes with his guitar tones. It kind of reminds me of quieter Zeppelin’s “Bron-Y-Aur” or The Allman Brothers’ “Little Martha.” It is quiet, yet otherworldly powerful.
Chris Bell, “I Am The Cosmos”
I fell in love with Chris Bell while making Supergiant. Lewis Pesacov, our producer, introduced this record to me when we were referencing some Big Star tracks for guitar sounds in the studio. Bell uses all of these unusual voicings on the guitar that makes his songwriting very dynamic. Bell was a troubled person, dealing with the tension of being raised in a very religious home and being homosexual. I hear him grappling with that on this record, praising some bigger entity, while also wrestling with his own sense of selfhood.
Parquet Courts, “Dust”
Oh man, this band. VQ opened for them at the Nelsonville Music Festival in Ohio. They played a fearless set, going into these almost monastic moments of repeated phrases and movements with their bodies and instruments. They really went for it and didn’t care how off the rails it went. Then, they came off stage and we did handstands. Jah bless.
Jenny O., “Cheer Up Free Your Mind”
Jenny is a local Los Angeles songwriter that I’ve had the honor of playing with a few times. Jenny’s writing reminds me of the Beatles. She’s a real classic when it comes to her writing style. She’s also very shy and soft spoken, so I like hearing her express herself musically and hearing what she might not be saying when she talks. Her vocal style reminds me of J.J. Cale, it’s a powerful whisper.
Destroyer, “The Bad Arts”
VQ’s Destroyer EP was named after this project, formed by Dan Bejar. We covered his song, “Painter in Your Pocket” from his record, Rubies. He’s a relentless writer, he seems to overflow with poetic phrasing and romantic notions. The resounding line from this song has continued to stick with me, “though shall not make or take in the bad arts.” Amen.
Alice Coltrane, “Journey in Satchidananda”
I’m including this one because I feel a lot of the songs on this playlist are songs l am currently into, but this song, and its accompanying record under the same name, has been a record I’ve listened to for over ten years now. Alice Coltrane was the wife of John Coltrane, a harpist and a spiritual practitioner. If you watcha videos of her playing, she’s ecstatic. Trance inducing. The intention of her music reaches further down into the spiritual realm and certainly puts me in a state. The song is filled with the sounds of bells, sitars, and Alice’s harp, full of wonder.
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