“Johnston’s songs were fragile in a way that could disarm even the most cynical of us. His enthusiastic yip and uncanny knack for soaring choruses was undeniable no matter the fidelity. The music could feel silly and sincere, diaristic and voyeuristic, sometimes even in the space of a single line.”
We lost two totemic Texan weirdos this year with the passing of Roky and Daniel. Both suffered from terrible mental disease and mistreatment (even hero worship from non-treatment) but both men somehow turned such suffering into comforting music. In my many hours with their music growing up in Texas, I certainly didn’t understand the ramifications of such fandom, but the one time I saw Daniel perform, it was evident that it was an uneven relationship in a way that was troubling. But it really took seeing the doc The Devil and Daniel Johnston to realize the true ramifications of his suffering.
The genius of “True Love Will Find You in the End” and “Walking the Cow” deserve all the reverence though and they border on being hymns; it’s not hard to imagine them lasting for generations. I also find sweet comfort in the echo between Roky’s “Starry Eyes” (which I now sing as a lullaby for my daughter each night) and Daniel’s line about “Lucky stars in your eyes.”
Daniel Johnston Was a Hero for the Wounded for Vulture.
“I was doing what I loved to do, working in the studio and create. That’s where being a woman in the business really became real to me. I felt like if I had been a man, it wouldn’t have happened in that way, not being called for work. I had to kick the door back down. I felt like I was being a girl, that’s the way it goes.”
“Music is the Answer,” but the question is who created one of the first house tracks? And why don’t more people know Yvonne Turner’s name? A case made for Yvonne Turner at Pitchfork
“It’s almost impossible to de-program the incestually-established, male oppressor, especially the ones who’ve been weaned on it thru their families…like die-hard NRA freaks and inherited corporate-power mongrels…But there are thousands of green minds, young gullible 15-year-old boys out there just starting to fall into the grain of what they’ve been told of what a man is supposed to be, and there are plenty of tools to use. The most effective tool is entertainment.”
A deep dive into the discography of the band that meant everything to me back in 1991. Rather than feel nostalgic, I was shocked to discover that in 2019, Nirvana still feels as eerily powerful, cathartic and prescient now as it did then. And I finally put the best Nirvana song at #1.
Every Nirvana Song Ranked, for Vulture.
Happy Release Day for Mort Garson’s Plantasia, which sees official release on Sacred Bones Records today. I had the honor of penning the liner notes for this rhododendron-friendly synth jammer and waxed about the plant consciousness of everything from Swamp Thing to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. True roots music. Pick up a copy here and let your mind sprout.
“He was possessed, so vivid and mesmerizing. His voice was so sharp and cutting — sometimes he’d get lost in his screams.”
It’s hard to fully explain just how vital a figure Roky Erickson was for all the weirdos growing up deep in the heart of Texas. Not just as an acid casualty, of someone who went out too far and never quite came back, but just as someone who had to cope with the suffocating conservative culture of Texas and America at large by making gloriously weird music. Has anyone but Roky ever written this many insanely catchy, tangy songs about the Devil? Maybe I didn’t quite understand it then, playing endlessly my cassette copy of You’re Gonna Miss Me, which compiled all of his post-Elevators insanity, or the heartbreaking fragility of Never Say Goodbye, which my friend Craig released at the end of the ’90s (great write-up of that set here), but his life and art –in addition to the capturing the darkness that exists alongside such searches for enlightenment– tells us more about America’s brutal repression of its artists and visionaries than almost anything else.
Roky Erickson remembrance, for Vulture.
“Relentless and incandescent, Brown Rice rebuffs the notion that spiritual music must be placid. Cherry suggests—as Alice Coltrane did in the same era—that true spiritual awakening stems not always from a state of peace but from tumult and upheaval. In its balance of noise and bliss, beauty and chaos, Brown Rice is true world music.”
Don Cherry’s classic Brown Rice, for Pitchfork.
“Before John Lennon primal-screamed that he didn’t believe in Beatles, before David Bowie set off on a career of chameleonic reinventions, before Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake shook off the shackles of teen pop stardom for serious adult music, Scott Walker had already performed self-immolation on his mid-’60s image as ‘the Boy With the Golden Voice’ and ‘the Blond Beatle.'”
On the godlike genius of Scott Walker, the erasure of the Walker Brothers from ’60s culture memory, and how his solo work contained not just heartbreak but humanity’s greatest atrocities within them.
“This is How You Disappear” for Vulture.