Twenty local songs that belong on your hard drive
CN&R’s guide to the 20 downloadable local songs you should have in your possession
Sure, we dig writing about all the good bands in Chico, but sometimes we just want to write about the songs themselves. We’ve taken the liberty of choosing 20 songs by local artists that deserve a place in your collection.
We even went so far as to place them in the optimal order for a damn-fine comp CD. So, stack these songs onto a disc and sit back and enjoy—not one dud in the mix.
“Swarm,” West By Swan
The lyrics to “Swarm” came to West By Swan guitarist Dave Greenfield via his son, who was trying to shake off some pesky arachnids: “Bugs that buzz / always come to my ears / when I’m outside / until I get them off.” The music, however, is much more sophisticated, maintaining its jovial pace before plummeting to a reverb-drenched groove and then ascending to its final climax: “And then they come back again …” Perfection from the first listen.—M.L.
“Tattoo” starts off inconspicuously enough with Steve Nagayama’s silky bass line, but then the song’s jagged main riff disrupts the proceedings—in a good way. Machinegreen guitarist/vocalist Scott Barwick channels the spirit of the Cars’ Rick Ocasek (so what if he’s not dead) to create a simple and catchy new wave pop song with enough rock umph! to keep things from getting wimpy.—M.L.
“Fire Breathing Damsel Devourer,” The Makai
This is metal—the classic tale of dragon slayers and wizards—set to a malevolent soundtrack of precision riffs from Zeke Rogers and Ian Makau and hammered home by drummer Jesse Schreibman’s dead-on time changes and double-kick flourishes. It’s aggressive minus the angry—although it is enough to make a grown man want to chuck his computer monitor through the window and watch in glee as it smashes on the street below. And the screaming … oh, the screaming.—M.L.
“Pretty Girls Play Pretty Songs,” Aubrey Debauchery
Aubrey D. has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard—not an overstatement. And, although she never quite lets loose on “Pretty Girls Play Pretty Songs,” she doesn’t have to in order to get her point across. Over fluttery acoustic guitar strums, Aubrey dogmatically describes the influence a beautiful woman and a guitar can have on the male species. Trust me when I tell you this song produces the soothing effects of being back in the womb.—M.L.
“Shake 1,000,” La Dolce Vita
Keeping in mind that the members of La Dolce Vita are influenced by just about every style of music under the sun, this one makes perfect sense. With its Police-meets-Nirvana dynamics, “Shake 1,000” lures you in with Jake Sprecher’s hefty kick and Ginny Eck’s thumping bass before guitarist/vocalist Daniel Paggi stomps the fuzz-box and the whole thing comes unhinged. Don’t be shy: Invite some friends over, hit play and let the pogoing commence—M.L.
“Mathe Man,” Oubliette Perish
This is probably the least mathy of the musical equations found on Oubliette Perish’s self-titled EP. Oh, who’s kidding who? “Mathe Man” is actually about six songs crammed into one. But, guitarist and vocalist Curtis Zinn impressively makes this indulgent excursion through musical gymnastics work from the song’s spacey intro,through its divergence into hardcore ("Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!"), and on to the song’s final destination—of all places, a Brian Setzer-inspired swing.—M.L.
“Grease,” The Shankers
Clocking in at only one minute, 25 seconds, “Grease” is a short-but-sweet rockabilly romp with vocalist/guitarist Johnny Shanker’s trademark hiccup on lines like “Grease in my hair, grease in my hand / grease everywhere, always understand.” If this song doesn’t incite finger-snapping, or at least some toe-tapping, you may want to have your pulse checked. This is about as fun as it gets.—M.L.
“Medusa’s Spell,” The Electric Pie Band
This sweet piece of ‘60s-inspired garage pop absolutely will melt you. Vocalist Marty Parker’s bratty punk rasp gives way to velvety smooth harmonies in the song’s sugary chorus when he claims “I only like you because I don’t love you / I only like you ‘cause you can’t break my heart.” Combine that with chords drenched in reverb, one ripping solo and K.C. Ellis’ jumpy bass lines, and you have one hell of a good recipe. Warning: May result in damage to your player’s repeat button.—M.L.
“Song 2,” Doki Doki Panic
It’s difficult to remember when drums have absolutely taken over a song like they do on newcomers Doki Doki Panic’s “Song 2.” Former Squirrel vs. Bear guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Kirt Lind lets his operatic vocals fly over a relentless rhythm section that fuses elements of metal and jazz, and transforms them into a compelling and spastic piece of indie rock. You might want to sit down while listening to this one.—M.L.
“Meth Til Death,” MC Oroville
A second theme song for our sister city, Oroville (remember DNA’s “Oroville Song"?) In his unmistakable delivery, MC Oroville spews a nonstop maelstrom of rhymes from the trailer park: “I haven’t slept in a month, not one goddamned hour / my body stinks but my trailer’s got no shower / meth til death that’s all I know, I don’t give a fuck about Chico.” All this over a snazzy slide-guitar riff. Fun. Ridiculous. Not for the faint of heart.—M.L.
“Make Believers,” Deerpen
Dual guitar melodies sparkle like tiny little bells initially, setting a hypnotic Coldplay-like tone. And, even as the four bandmates dynamically build up to the muscular choruses, the song keeps gently floating, buoyed by a perfect balance of hummable melody, mid-tempo toe-tapping and shoegazer guitar swirls. What really sets the song (and the band) apart is Rett Matthews’ soaring vocal delivery—"bellowing from a mountaintop” as this writer put it once. He repeats the line “Make believers, one by one,” like he was Thom Yorke or Bono leading a sing-a-long to a packed soccer stadium. It’s the kind of tune that can make a band famous.—J.C.
“El New,” Slow Down Theo
If Deerpen’s Rett Matthews is the best vocalist in town, Slow Down Theo’s Jon Simcox is the best front man. On this new-wave throwback, Simcox is at his emotive best. Borrowing dreary, echoing, goth-like delivery from the likes of the Cure’s Robert Smith, he tells a tale of love and wanderlust over a dancy beat, with guitarist Rob Reeves’ spiky, fuzzed-out chords biting at his feet throughout. Also try “Tappy Larue."—J.C.
“Yuschenko,” Lott Lyzzyrd
Office nepotism be damned! If the song rocks, it rocks. It’s true that Lott Lyzzyrd boasts one office mate (Arts Editor Mark Lore on bass), and one former office mate (recently departed News Editor Josh Indar on drums), but one listen to guitarist/vocalist Scott Derr’s nasty guitar hook and you’ll agree that only a corpse could ignore this garage-pop raver. Hell, even a zombie would sing along: “Yuschenko don’t go, to dinner with the secret police."—J.C.
“Cheer Up,” The Deer
Like the California-minded bands that inform his band’s sound—The Beach Boys, The Byrds—Nate Pendery writes songs that were made to be played during the summer on your car stereo or on your front porch. The vocals here go a little flat at times, but it sort of fits with the song’s lazy country twang: “When you get home you’ll be a normal grouch / You’ll put my guitar down, my cigarette out / Ah sweetheart,”—cue the vocal harmonies—“Cheer up.”—J.C.
“I Don’t Do This All the Time,” Hrbngr Hrbngr
For his band Hrbngr Hrbngr (formerly Arrangement Ghost), Jason Willmon sings a lot of short songs. When listening to his sad, throaty, almost nonchalant vocal delivery on this under-two-minute selection, I get an image of Willmon casually stopping at his computer, opening the recording program, making up this loping melody in one take, and then standing up and continuing to vacuum or fix dinner for himself.—J.C.
“Oh Flesh,” Royal Crown
Singer/songwriter Becky Anker’s recordings are some of the best this writer has ever owned, locally produced or otherwise. Any song of hers, whether from her prolific days as Royal Crown or in her contributions as a member of Hrbngr Hrbngr, could be put on a list of great local songs. “Oh Flesh” has the whole Anker package: ghostly melodies, dark arrangements and poetic lyrics of biblical proportions—"Oh flesh, I know it well / What’s good for my body will carry me to Hell."—J.C.
“Motel Sex,” Danny Cohen
“The doctor who slapped me alive, wondered why I never cried / Guess I knew it all died …” —those opening lines are where it all begins for Danny Cohen. Like Bukowski, Kerouac or Tom Waits, Cohen doesn’t have a problem with the dark side of humanity, and the thin, swanky groove of “Motel Sex” certainly makes getting one’s kicks at this “sleazy dive” sound as fun and natural as anywhere else.—J.C.
“As it Goes,” Cair Paravel
Cair Paravel might be the best band in Chico. It takes more than a minute to break through some almost superfluous organ and drum shuffling here, but it’s time well spent. The gooey, poppy center bursts forth in a swingin’ ba-ba-ba rhythm of organ, bass, drums and guitar all downstroking together before abruptly shifting into a wide-open chorus of guitarist Riley Plumb’s bright guitar riffs and vocalist/songwriter Jonathan Wesley wailing all Ben Folds-like: “I’ve got to keep moving / I’ve got to keep running / I’m running away.” The best part is when everything drops out for a verse and the rhythm is replaced with hand claps, percussive organ notes and vocals that sound like they’re coming out of the bathroom at the back of the house. One of the punchiest, brightest, best-recorded songs ever to come out of Chico.—J.C.
“Truckers Knot,” Stationary Legs
Since you’ve likely never heard of Stationary Legs, I am here to offer some words of caution. Simply put, this is a brand-new Chico three-piece that blends furiously paced, mathy indie rock with shrieking heavy-metal vocals and paints over it all with the dark colors of art-rock pretentiousness. It’s a beautiful bloody mess played with the precise conviction of a serial killer, and it’s watching you.—J.C.
“Rinds of Glory,” The Americas
If the Americas’ “The Grueling Task of Mending Chicken Wire” were still online it would be choice number one for this story, but “Rinds of Glory” will get the point across. To fully explain the noisy, poppy, mathy, super-charged, emotive, layered, beautiful blueprint of this one eight-minute song-symphony would take up every word of this whole feature. The duo’s sound has been compared (by this writer) to the crazed, frenetic back-and-forth of the electronic game Simon, and that metaphor sums things up as well as anything. The greatest feat of the Americas is that none of their grand experiments sound as if they’ve been plotted or planned out (surely they have been, meticulously). This (and every) song just comes across as natural as two friends having a spirited conversation.—J.C.