I know it’s just their second album, but how are these guys not better known? Troker is a far-out, hard-riffing, technically intricate instrumental band from Guadalajara. It’s tough to bring a jazz sensibility into rock, and vice versa (for all his limitations, Stanley Crouch got it right when he talked about rock staying here in this great groove and jazz restlessly exploring out there) so I’m always impressed by acts like the Lounge Lizards, Herbie Hancock, and Troker that figure out where to find that balance point. There’s local influence in those horns without ever sounding like mariachis, turntablism added as a fun accent rather than a puzzling intrusion, and big whomping beats that appeal to dance floor and intellect alike. These guys could make it big.

Oh yeah, Quintron and Miss Pussycat!

quintron and miss pussycat

Quintron and Miss Pussycat

He’s a low-down gritty organist/mad inventor. She’s a whimsical puppeteer. Together, they fight crime! Or at least make some really interesting music. I saw Quintron and Miss Pussycat play at the Monkey House in Winooski over the weekend. Part of it was a weird connection I feel with Quintron: my dad came up playing keyboards in that part of NOLA, even playing one or two of the few clubs that are still around. And while I think he would have been bemused by the duo’s far-out Zappaesque aesthetic, he totally would have dug the hard-rocking blues organ sound pumping out of those revolving speakers. They even have a proper music video you can watch on the Entertainment Weekly website.

Some new guitarists

My wife loves instrumental guitar music (Leo Kottke, California Guitar Trio, King Crimson), so I’m always keeping an ear out for new artists. I’ve found three good ones recently, all with such “normal guy” names that I have a hard time keeping them straight. :)

William Tyler has been recording with others for some years now, but his recent solo album Impossible Truth is something special. His technical chops and interest in folk sounds evoke both Chet Atkins and John Fahey. Tyler’s never content to stay in a groove, always exploring new directions, but he’s very listenable.

Steve Gunn is as much producer as guitarist. He’s collaborating and guesting with every willing act in Brooklyn; for my money such exploratory ramblings are one of the best features of modern New York music.

Ryley Walker is my favorite of the bunch. He’s absolutely hit the ground running with his first album, All Kinds of You. Walker reminds me most of Tim Buckley but there’s all sorts of English songwriting heritage coursing through his work. I look forward to much more to come.

Childhood Favorites: Kiss

My 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Orsborn, was shocked to discover that I was a fan of Kiss. Indeeed, I was a member of the Kiss Army; no doubt there’s a a jacket patch mouldering at the bottom of a landfill somewhere. But Kiss was my first music fandom. They were the first band that I got super enthusiastic over: watching for every new release, learning the band members’ (fictionalized) biographies, eagerly watching for every mention in the popular press. They were fun and accessible and ROCKING as all get-out. Most of all, Kiss were theatrical.

gene simmons

Gene Simmons

The Spaceman, the Demon, the Starchild, the Catman–it was 70s arena rock at its most overblown, but as a little kid I absolutely ate it up. And all the things that were true back then are still there. Kiss still shows solid songcraft, pretty good technique, and the best sense of what being a “rock star” means. I have no doubt that Gene Simmons is kind of an asshole in person (lord knows I’ve seen plenty of evidence in interviews) but that doesn’t diminish the joy he’s brought to the world.