Rick’s Picks for SXSW 2018

Left of the Dial

Rick’s Picks for SXSW 2018

Posted by on Mar 13, 2018

Rick McNulty hosts Left of the Dial on Fridays and Uptown Saturday Night on Saturdays, 7-11 pm. Follow him on Twitter @Rick_Daddy

After spending the past two weeks swimming through the morass of SXSW artists, I think I finally have my essential acts to see. [Note to our Austin bands: though I will no doubt catch some of you this week, I didn’t include you in this discussion since we can fortunately see you year-round.]

My first priority is to catch U.S. Girls, which is the moniker used by Meghan Remy. Her lyrics are subversive with a musical foundation that skews somewhere between Childish Gambino, Steely Dan, and a young Madonna. She just released her second album and may be primed for a breakout this year.

I’m also excited about the 20-year-old Sophie Allison, soon to be better known as Soccer Mommy. Clearly Allison comes from the school of Car Seat Headrest because A) she uses a ridiculous nom de plume; B) she’s barely old enough to vote; C) she knows her way around a guitar; and D) she writes songs that are as heartbreaking as they are cutting.

My third favorite pick for SXSW is a young British quartet known as Goat Girl. They have an elevated sense of humor (“Country Sleaze” and “Cracker Drool” are just two of their titles), are incredibly fun onstage, and speak to the malaise of our times. I hope they run into Kim Deal while they’re here — they’d have a lot to discuss.

More generally, if you’re on the prowl for straight up rock ‘n’ roll I recommend Naked GiantsMetzCanshaker Pi, or Ex-Girlfriends. And if you want something a little weirder, you’ll flip your wig with Superorganism, Sloppy Jane, Girlyboi, or De Lux.

Here’s a Spotify playlist with my 30 picks for this week. Good luck out there!

Rick’s Picks for ACL 2017

ACL Festival

Rick’s Picks for ACL 2017

Posted by on Oct 4, 2017

KUTX’s Rick McNulty hosts Left of the Dial every Friday night 7 p.m. – 11 p.m. This week he’ll give you a list of THE people to watch at the Austin City Limits Festival.  Here are a few of his picks!

 



Vulfpeck vulfpeck

It’s the one band I’m most excited to see as I’ve heard nothing but great things about their live shows. They’re a bunch of smart and funky music nerds who model themselves after legendary session musicians of the past (Muscle Shoals, Stax, Motown). 

*Plus two nights @ Emo’s 10/9 & 10/10.



Car Seat Headrest car seat headrest

Will Toledo and his young buddies may still look like they need permission slips signed by their parents to go out on tour, but they can rock like a mother. Furthermore, their star is ascending and pretty white hot right now. See ‘em before you’re over ‘em. 

**Plus late night @ Mowhawk 10/12.



Thundercat
thundercat

Stephen Bruner has some of the most bizarre and varied vocabulary in music these days (working with Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, Suicidal Tendencies and Michael McDonald for starters). His bass playing is extraordinarily complex and suave;  too bad he was thirty years too late to join Steely Dan or play with McDonald the first time around.

**Plus late night @ Scoot Inn 10/7.



Gorillaz
gorillaz

I’m a big believer that you can’t see a band too soon, which is to say, before they call it quits or get crusty and stale. Gorillaz has never seemed like they’re a permanent fixture so my advice to is to catch them before it’s too late. And you know they’ll play “Clint Eastwood.”

 



Nick Hakim
nick hakim

If you hit that point in the festival when you need to mellow out, Hakim may be your best bet. The man has an sweet and honeyed voice supported by  minimalist instrumentation with lots of wonky honks and beeps. Honestly though, he could sing the phone book and it would still melt your cold jaded heart.

**Plus late night @ Antone’s 10/13.

 

Sgt. Pepper’s Thunder & Lightning

Left of the Dial

Sgt. Pepper’s Thunder & Lightning

Posted by on Jun 1, 2017

Rick McNulty hosts Left of the Dial on Fridays and Uptown Saturday Night on Saturdays, 7-11 pm. Follow him on Twitter @Rick_Daddy

Peter-Blake-Sgt.-Pepper’s-Lonely-Hearts-Club-Band-19671For those who aren’t sure what all the fuss is about Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, let me give you the crib notes: fifty years ago the biggest rock band of all-time decided they were finished with touring and exhausted of being fabulous for the rest of the world’s sake. They retreated to a famous recording studio and took their jolly time to make a seamless album (“jolly time” being roughly four and a half months). This album immediately became a cultural zeitgeist, signifying the glorious Sixties while sounding like nothing ever before or since. It’s a work of art and a masterpiece which changed the face of pop music forever. Get the picture? Oh, and the members of this band were all in their mid-twenties.

Timothy Leary freaks on the Beatles.

Timothy Leary freaks on the Beatles.

I know it sounds like hyperbole, but it’s all true. In the music world, time stopped in June of 1967 and began moving in an entirely different direction. Timothy Leary, the LSD-loving shaman of those heady days, put it this way: “I declare that The Beatles are mutants. Prototypes of evolutionary agents sent by God, endowed with a mysterious power to create a new human species, a young race of laughing freemen.” As ridiculous as it may sound fifty years later, Leary wasn’t that far off.

The problem with reconciling the grandeur attributed to Pepper is that for the last several decades, people only experienced the album in its original stereo version. Just about any Beatle fan will tell you that you haven’t heard Sgt. Pepper until you’ve listened to it in mono. This was a true statement until a week ago when Apple Records released the album with a new stereo mix to mark its 50th Anniversary.

General fanboy opinions are that the original stereo mix sounded anemic — the instruments and vocals were placed in wide stereo which often left a hole in the middle of your speakers. Part of the problem is that all four Beatles spent three weeks mixing the album to mono; when they finished they skedaddled and left it to producer George Martin and the engineers to make the stereo mix over a weekend. It wasn’t Martin’s fault that technology hadn’t caught up with the band — they had no choice but to bounce down piano, guitar and drums onto ONE track of a FOUR track recorder. In the Pepperland of 1967, they couldn’t separate each instrument onto its own track so the fidelity and placement suffered in the final mix — hence the disconnect between its legendary greatness and the actual paucity of the stereo record.

On the new stereo mix Giles Martin, son of George, was able to go back to the original four-track tapes and use the instruments before they were bounced down to one track. This means the fidelity will be sharper than anything we’ve ever heard before and that Giles can now place the separate tracks more “tastefully” in the stereo image.

"A young race of laughing freemen."

“A young race of laughing freemen.”

Before I get too Inside Baseball, let me tell you all you need to know about this 50th Anniversary remix: It’s explosive and it’s juicy. There’s a three-dimensional fleshiness to the sound that even the vaunted mono mix doesn’t quite capture. Whereas the original mono is a swift kick to the head and reveals the Beatles as a rock band, the new stereo version aims more at your chest with thunder, lightning, and all sorts of gravitas. The clarity of the instrumentation and vocals is astounding compared to what’s come before — which is discombobulating when you feel like you’re having an entirely new experience with an album you’ve already heard a thousand times.

Forget about the old version, unless yours is already in mono. The new release is essential to actually hear the majesty of what Sgt. Pepper was all about. And you gotta love the irony that it took fifty years for technology to finally catch up to those laughing freemen. 

A note for the hardcore collectors:

In addition to the new remix there’s plenty of outtakes and early versions in the 2-disc Deluxe Edition. More often than not they’re simply work tapes, which can be fascinating but not necessarily essential (with the exception of the first take of “Strawberry Fields Forever” which I demand to be played at my wake). In the Super Deluxe Edition there’s an excellent book, a thirty year old documentary, more outtakes, a bonus CD of the mono mix, and Surround Sound mixes of the entire album.

Marquee Moon 40th Anniversary

Left of the Dial

Marquee Moon 40th Anniversary

Posted by on Feb 23, 2017

Rick McNulty hosts Left of the Dial on Fridays, 7-11 pm. Follow him on Twitter @Rick_Daddy

What exactly is a “cult album?” To me, it’s a record that falls through the cracks and goes by largely unnoticed and sells poorly until several years later when scores of music nerds start talking about what a terrific album it was. We’re talking Pet Sounds, Da Capo, White Light/White Heat, Astral Weeks, Ram, Underwater Moonlight, and In An Aeroplane Over The Sea.

marquee moon med coverTelevision’s Marquee Moon is a quintessential cult favorite – it didn’t even crack the top 150 albums in the US – yet it’s had more staying power than most records that came out in the 1970s. And that’s because it’s timeless, it never sounds dated, and it was far ahead of its time when it came out in 1977. A lot of that has to do with Tom Verlaine’s songwriting (strong, forceful, elastic, and hooks galore) as well as the fevered guitar interplay between Verlaine and Richard Lloyd. Guitarists today still mine the album for inspiration and to decipher its code, as if scientists had developed the perfect DNA for the art of guitar weaving.

Like so many cult albums before it, Marquee Moon was a victim of being so far ahead of its time that their record label didn’t know how to market it and radio stations – beginning to succumb to corporate mentality of the late ‘70s – were afraid of it. Television toiled in obscurity; even the glowing reviews from the rock cognoscenti couldn’t save them. They’d break up eighteen months later.

If you haven’t heard it, do yourself a favor. Listen to side 1, which in my mind is one of the greatest sides of music ever committed to vinyl. Four perfect songs in a row including an explosive, epic finish. It’s the real deal.

I remember how the darkness doubled
I recall lightning struck itself.

LOTD Favorites From 2016

Left of the Dial

LOTD Favorites From 2016

Posted by on Dec 21, 2016

Rick McNulty hosts Left of the Dial on Fridays, 7-11 pm. Follow him on Twitter @Rick_Daddy

When you host a regular program on KUTX, you feel like you’re being bombarded with a taco cannon shooting new songs at you on a weekly basis – you have to stay on your toes. Hosting Left Of The Dial, where I play more adventurous and sometimes “not ready for prime-time” music, means I’m faced with even more tacos blasting towards my head – it’s like having that taco cannon blast the individual ingredients at you while you have to assemble a taco on the fly.

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve got a truckload of tasty new tacos for you to try, and they’re all from 2016. Below is a Spotify playlist of my favorite tracks from this year, and though you may not dig them all, I bet you’ll find some stuff that you’d use for your own mixtape. In any case, enjoy all the new music. Whoever says that music is dead is full of beans (old crusty beans from a gas station taco).

Tune in to Left Of The Dial on January 30th for Rick’s favorite songs of 2016.