Sam Hockley-Smith

Backtrack: Various Artists The Golden Apples Of The Sun

Looking back, it's actually difficult to capture just how weird and momentous the freak folk movement of the first half of the 2000s felt. It wasn't cobbled together so much as it was a united front of weirdos that were obsessed with their own skewed vision of the past -- AM radio gold sat comfortably… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / September 25, 2013

Backtrack: Halo Benders God Don’t Make No Junk

Having spare time is important. That goes without saying. But considering none of us have it ever, maybe it's worth saying again. Listening to the Halo Benders' 1994 album God Don't Make No Junk, the first album from the low-key side project of Built To Spill's Doug Martsch and Beat Happening/K Record sounder Calvin Johnson,… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / September 11, 2013

Backtrack: Doug Martsch Now You Know

Built To Spill's Doug Martsch released one solo album, Now You Know, in 2002. It's not that different from a Built To Spill record -- his soaring vocals are still present, that sort of abstract, knotty lyrical wisdom is still very much in the mix, as is some of the virtuoso guitar playing that i… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / September 5, 2013

Backtrack: Built To Spill You In Reverse

The strangest musical moment of my adult life came when I discovered that a lot of my friends were jam band people. It's not like they kept it a secret, but they didn't really make a point of talking about it either. More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / August 29, 2013

Backtrack: Modest Mouse The Lonesome Crowded West

Modest Mouse grew up in public, but popular opinion is that they really truly figured it out with 2000's The Moon & Antarctica, creating one of those of albums that points to some just-out-of-reach understanding of the world. Listening to it, I knew I would eventually understand what Isaac Brock was singing about, but I… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / August 21, 2013

Backtrack: Shocking Pinks Shocking Pinks

Three songs into New Zealand-based Shocking Pinks' self-titled 2007 record, frontman and only consistent member Nick Harte sings, "Take some medicine, get a bandage, shoot some heroin, see a therapist, drink some tea, build a routine, walk down by the sea, ask for more or less" over a goopy guitar line and ramshackle drums. It'… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / August 15, 2013

Backtrack: Studio West Coast

Studio were the Gothenburg, Sweden-based duo of Dan Lissvik and Rasmus Hägg. Their output, which consists of a series of singles that were later collected, with some repeating tracks, on 2007's West Coast and Yearbook 1, was heartbreakingly limited, lush, and often absurdly gorgeous. It presented Gothenburg as a tropical outpost of Sweden that existed… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / August 8, 2013

Backtrack: Panda Bear Person Pitch

Growing up, I tricked myself into thinking I was an idealist. I don't think this was especially uncommon for people my age. When you're a teenager, you think you're ready for adulthood, because the promises that adulthood holds -- doing what you want for a living, having your own place, living the dream, whatever that… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / July 3, 2013

Backtrack: Animal Collective Campfire Songs

Aging gracefully -- particularly in the context of music -- usually means that a band manages to inch their sound forward without losing sight of what they were doing at the beginning. The problem with this is that a lot of bands don't really know who they are the beginning, and happen upon something that… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / June 26, 2013

Backtrack: Gang Gang Dance God’s Money

Gang Gang Dance's 2005 record God's Money used to feel difficult. To put it in context, at the time, seeing Gang Gang Dance live was alternately the best and most frustrating experience. They'd move from long drones to these moments of percussion-based psychedelic, eyes-roll-back-in-your-head bliss. The difficult parts made everything else that came after so… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / June 19, 2013

Backtrack: Out Hud S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D.

You can always keep going. You can always do more. One more word, one more mile, one more hour. It's as good as it is bad, but as long as you're moving there's more to do/see/experience/freak out about. Out Hud, for the brief time that they were a band, felt like the perfect soundtrack to… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / June 12, 2013

Backtrack: Liars Drum’s Not Dead

At various points in musical history, if you were a certain kind of musician with a certain set of obsessions, making an intricately layered, impossibly dense magnum opus was not just an option, it was a requirement that came from somewhere deep in your soul that could never quite be fulfilled. It's become the story… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / June 5, 2013

Backtrack: TV On The Radio Return To Cookie Mountain

In 2006, I was living in New York, breathlessly anticipating the release of both Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds and TV on the Radio's Return to Cookie Mountain. Breathlessly is definitely the wrong word, but I was excited enough to head to the Virgin Megastore at exactly midnight to buy both, because buying a record the second… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / May 29, 2013

Backtrack: Woods At Rear House

Jobs were passed down generationally between strangers. One guy became an editor at a magazine, but used to be a music buyer at Mondo Kim's on St. Marks. My friend got the job and started a shoegaze band with a tall guy named Brad that had a huge beard and a couple large cats. Brad… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / May 22, 2013

Backtrack: Phosphorescent Pride

Recently, Matthew Houck, aka Phosphorescent, played at New York's Bowery Ballroom in celebration of the release of his latest album Muchacho, which is by no means his first, but definitely his biggest. I'm more of a Pride guy myself. Pride came out in 2007. It's a small album. Houck owes a lot to… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / May 16, 2013

Backtrack: Castanets City Of Refuge

If Nina Nastasia and Jim White made an album that acted as an intimate conversation between their audience and themselves, then Ray Raposa's Castanets project cuts out the listener entirely. Across five LPs, Raposa's moved from gothic, swampy folk to lofty sweetness to desolate, heat-soaked desert music. It's all good in its ow… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / May 8, 2013

Backtrack: Jim White & Nina Nastasia You Follow Me

Writing about Jim White's drumming is difficult. Last week, I covered Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power's seminal Moon Pix, an album that benefits as much from her willingness to embrace her own demons as it does from Jim White's free drumming, which exists as a counterpoint to Marshall's controlled fury and desolate sadness. More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / May 1, 2013

Backtrack: Cat Power Moon Pix

Writing is about myth making. Taking the true aspects of yourself and defining them so clearly that they become you. Marginal personality tics explode into full character traits, sadness becomes a vehicle for personal exploration, happiness, when you can pull it off, becomes euphoric. Chan Marshall, as Cat Power, is great at this sort of… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / April 24, 2013

Backtrack: Palace Music Viva Last Blues

At the end of Louis CK's recent interview in The New York Times, he talks about how Woody Allen went out on a limb to make Take The Money and Run, a mockumentary about a criminal who really sucked at being a criminal. His experiment paid off, and though the studio was apparently… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / April 10, 2013

Backtrack: Silkworm Firewater

Sometimes I think I hate Silkworm. Firewater, which is largely regarded as their greatest album in a catalog that's full of as many great moments as overlooked ones, is a difficult, confrontational, awkward, lumbering bible for being a good drunk and living well in shitty circumstances, or failing that, at least coping with them enough… More »

By: Sam Hockley-Smith / April 3, 2013

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