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Staff Picks: November 12, 2020

Staff Picks: Daniel

Radioactivity: “The Last” (from their self-titled record, Dirtnap Records 2013)

If you read last week’s newsletter or keep a close eye on our social media, you might know that my friend and bandmate Osamu Sueyoshi passed away. This past week I helped choose some music for his memorial service. I needed about five minutes of music to go along with a photo slideshow. We knew we wanted a No Love song, and we ended up choosing “Dear Mrs. Nelson” from our demo because that’s the only No Love song for which Osamu wrote the words and the music. Osamu wrote the lyrics when he noticed the host of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (one of his favorite shows) was wearing a wedding band, so he wrote a love song about missing your wife while stranded with a bunch of robots watching movies. It’s pretty clever. No Love had long since disowned our demo-era material (we even turned off the tracks on our bandcamp page) because the band changed a lot after that period, moving away from pop-punk and more toward the punky, song-oriented hardcore where we ended up. I was a little nervous bout revisiting that material, but it surprised me how good it sounded. Osamu was a brilliant musician, and he wrote a perfect little pop song with a guitar hook at the beginning and a key change in the bridge. I even thought the recording sounded pretty good. It’s one of the last things I recorded myself, because by then other people like Jeff had gotten way better at recording than I was ever going to be.

Aside from the No Love song, I needed another track to fill up the five minutes, and I knew immediately that it was going to be “The Last” by Radioactivity. Radioactivity was an important band for No Love. We were all huge fans of the Marked Men, and when this record came out we were all playing it a lot. “The Last” is one of the standout tracks, and I remember whenever Radioactivity would come up, Osamu would just say “The Last” and look down and shake his head, like it astonished him that a song could be that good. Further, some of No Love’s last out of town shows were with Radioactivity and Night Birds, and that little weekend tour was hugely important to all of us (eternal thanks to Brian from Night Birds for inviting us!). I listened to a bunch of other potential songs, but doing so only made it clear how perfect “The Last” was. My partner Jet, who put together the slideshow, would burst into tears every time it played, which definitely slowed down the editing process.

Listening to “The Last” so much last week made me realize that I close myself off to letting music move me on an emotional level, which is strange because that’s the most important part of music for so many other people. I listen to so much music for Sorry State that I’ve developed this habit of checking something out, giving it enough attention to understand it on some level and slot it into (or outside or in between) a category, and then moving onto the next thing. When I listen to things over and over, it’s usually because the music is more complex or unfamiliar to me in a way that makes understanding it on that intellectual level more challenging.

However, “The Last” isn’t like that at all. It’s pure emotion and it hits me right in the gut every time. It’s so evocative that I don’t have time to think about the chord structure or how it fits in with the history of Texas punk or garage-punk or pop-punk. I just hear it and feel it. And now that I will forever associate that song with Osamu, its emotional resonance only grows stronger. More than just a piece of music, it’s like a celestial ringtone that I can use to call him any time I want.

Staff Picks: Jeff

What’s up Sorry Staters?

As I sit down to write this staff pick on a dreary and rainy morning, it seems only fitting that I decide to write about cold synthesizer music. I didn’t know anything about this band Portray Heads at all before these reissues arrived at the store. I decided to throw the record on because I feel like Bitter Lake is always reliable for reissuing great stuff. Unsurprisingly, this Portray Heads record is no exception.

Now, I would never claim to be an expert on minimal synth or electronic music in general, but there is a small faction of my taste I take a stroll down every once in a while that is dedicated to this type of music. I tend to gravitate toward more gothy or darkwave stuff like Nagamatzu… the sparser and colder the instrumentation, the better. But by comparison, I wouldn’t only describe Portray Heads as more up-tempo, but some of the programmed synth parts are frantic and anxiety-inducing. The intensity is only heightened by the group's ability to structure melodies in order to create an eerie and creepy atmosphere, all the while being super danceable and catchy. A lot of the synth melodies remind me of movie scores that have a sense of suspense and drama, almost like the score to Phantom of the Opera, but sped up while on club drugs.  

Just about every song on this double LP rules -- every song has its own vibe and earworm hook. While reading more about the band in Bitter Lake’s description, Portray Heads was very short-lived from 1984 to 1986 and only released 2 7” singles. This compilation of all their recorded material includes two demos that were apparently recorded by the band in the 80s. These recordings were not only unreleased, but totally unheard prior to contacting the band’s founder in attempting to organize this reissue. The unreleased tracks are not only on par with the band’s other material, but some of the songs from these sessions I personally think are the band’s most poppy and memorable output. This track for instance is less dark than most of the other songs, and sounds somewhere between New Order and Solid Space maybe?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3muDYy49o0

Anyway, super cool listen from a band I’d never heard of before. Do yourself a favor and check it out!

Thanks for reading,
-Jeff

Staff Picks: Dominic

Hey, what’s up everybody? What a flippin’ week that was. 2020 is not letting up. To be honest it has been hard to concentrate on anything. Even my nightly ritual of watching Jeopardy was saddened by the news of Alex Trebek passing away. We’ll miss you Uncle Alex. You all should Google the tribute that former contestant and champion Jacqueline Fuchs wrote (You may know her by her stage name, Jackie Fox from the Runaways) where she talks about her experience on the show and how much of a beautiful person Alex was.

This week I have been struggling to even play a record. It takes me forever to decide what to play. To counteract that I usually plug in to some online streams from some of my favorite radio shows from around the world and let someone else be the DJ. One station that I listen to every week is The Face Radio from Brooklyn. My friend Kurtis Powers hosts his show The Rendezvous each Sunday and over the years he has built up a whole network of great shows from different DJ’s hosting from around the US and the UK and as far away as Australia. The emphasis is on Mod, Soul, Jazz and Funk but the scope is getting broader all the time with new shows being added. If yours truly could get his shit together he might be on there too. This week on The Rendezvous, Kurtis played an interview he did with Soul legend Eddie Floyd. The interview was assisted by author Tony Fletcher who has just released a book on Floyd called Knock! Knock! Knock! On Wood: My Life In Soul. Anyone interested in soul music and particularly Memphis and Stax Records should seek out a copy. Please visit thefaceradio.com and check them out and your local book emporium for the book.

Listening to the interview did inspire me to pull out Eddie Floyd’s I’ve Never Found A Girl album from 1968. This is an album chocked full of love songs and heartbreak and capitalized on the hit single of the same name albeit with the (To Love Me Like You Do) added. The record opens with a strong cover of the Sam Cooke song Bring It On Home To Me and next tune Never Give You Up is an early Gamble & Huff penned song. Musically the Stax sound is in full effect on this one. Steve Cropper produced and co-wrote a lot of the other songs. I don’t need to go into how great Stax Records was as a label but hopefully you have at least one record in your collection featuring that iconic yellow label with the snapping fingers. If not, get on it.

Among the many other highlights on this album surely must be the song Hobo which is a great up tempo groover and perhaps not quite up there with Knock On Wood and Big Bird but could have been a single. Backing throughout features Booker T. and the Memphis Horns plus of course Steve Cropper who adds plenty of tasty guitar licks. Lovers of Southern Soul will find a lot to like in the song I’m Just The Kind Of Fool which simmers with quiet intensity and is likened to James Carrs’s Dark End Of The Street by one review I read and I would tend to agree.

Overall this is a really good record and generally underrated. Perhaps not a classic and considered “essential” but an enjoyable listen all the same and if you enjoy the classic sixties Memphis Soul Sound you’ll be happy. Pick it up if you see it. I’ll leave a link to a couple of tracks for you to investigate.
 
Until next time, thanks for reading and take care- Dom



Staff Picks: Rachel

THE SCAM- EVERYTHING ENDS IN ROT

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to this record. I (maybe illegally) downloaded it in high school and have distinct memories of putting this short album on repeat for hours. Something about it resonated with me.

As my music taste matured, my love for this album has only grown. You can just FEEL the attitude and energy the band must’ve had while recording. I don’t listen to much hardcore, so my frame of reference is slim but at the time I discovered this record, I’d never heard anything like it or seen an album cover quite like that. The riffs are catchy, the production quality isn’t great, and the vocals are weird as fuck. I honestly don’t think I’ve heard anything like this album since.

Everything Ends in Rot takes all of the aspects from hardcore, punk, thrash (maybe more?) that I like and smashed them together in 11 minutes. I think that’s why this album has been a constant in my rotation since I was 15; growing up I tried on a lot of different identities but always came back to the same mainstays.

Besides the hundreds of listens I’ve given this record, I felt I had to make it a staff pick because it was the first album I got at Sorry State back in 2017. I was getting back into record collecting after getting a job at [redacted] record store and looked up pressings of this album on a whim. The only hit I got was an eBay listing of a 2017 repress from Antitodo out of Spain…of course it was Sorry State’s account. I literally set an alarm on my phone so I’d remember giving the store a call when they opened and went down there as soon as I could. I probably freaked Jeff out because I was so excited, but whatever, I don’t think he remembers. If you’re local and had the misfortune of visiting me at my other record store job, I’m so sorry for subjecting you to this album at least three times in a row before begrudgingly putting on something else.


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