The Grisly Hand, Heidi Lynne Gluck and other Black Friday musts

With Black Friday just around the corner, we know you’ll find yourself beginning to seek out cool and interesting gifts for friends and family. Rather than buying another iTunes gift card for that stocking stuffer, we suggest you head out to one of the many excellent local record shops to buy an actual physical release from a local act. Whether it’s a benefit album, pop, metal, or lo-fi punk, there should be something for all tastes in this roundup of the latest local releases.

The Grisly Hand

Flesh & Blood / Hearts & Stars (double LP, self-released)

On this double LP from the Grisly Hand, you not only get last year’s excellent Flesh & Gold, but their latest, Hearts & Stars. Pairing the two reveals how complementary they really are. Flesh & Blood sounds a little lighter, Hearts & Stars darker. But, taken together, the songs on both project the full spectrum this grand band is capable of: all the twang, all of the harmonies, all of the entrancements. This isn’t two records joined by convenience. It’s a true double album, and a great one.

Why release your new album on vinyl along with your last one?

Jimmy Fitzner (guitar and vocals): Our recording process began with a weekend of tracking the bare bones for both albums, so we always viewed these songs as one project. But there were nine songs that were practically finished and a double LP takes quite a long time to put out properly, so we split the albums into two acts. The double LP is really a third act: It reveals more about the songs and about the band. It includes all the lyrics, wonderful artwork and a different take on the track order than on the CD versions.

How do you feel about the response from listeners thus far?

We’ve kept these recordings under wraps for the most part, so we’ll see! We’ve only played a couple of them live. Honestly, I’m glad I don’t have to live with the secret of this kickass record any longer.

Who took the reins on this album?

Michael Donovan Stover. He made it happen. We don’t call him Band Dad for nothin’! He essentially produced this album. Also, look no further than the string and horn arrangements on Hearts & Stars for proof of his musical genius.


Various Artists

Girls Rock Lawrence 2016 (self-released CD)

Seven brand-new songs from seven brand-new bands who hadn’t existed the week before these songs were recorded. If there’s anything fresher, we don’t know what it is. The Girls Rock Lawrence campers form their bands on a Monday morning in June, and by that Saturday evening, they’ve played a show and recorded. Some of the material is Shaggs-style music by kids feeling out their creativity for the first time. There are also fully formed recordings that sound like the young women who made it had been together for ages. It’s all refreshing and new, and the positive messages being conveyed show that the GRL camp model really benefits the girls who attend.

What’s it feel like to have recorded two songs?

Georgia Dickson (singer for the Gridd): It feels like I can do anything! I never thought I’d be in a band and have a record.

Do you have any plans for future musical projects?

I really want to start a band but the only issue I have is that I don’t know if I want to be a singer or a drummer.

How has the Girls Rock Camp helped you and your bandmates?

Girls Rock really helped me figure out who I was. I never thought I was special or that I could do anything at all. But Girls Rock helped me be who I am today, and hopefully teens who have been feeling like they can’t do anything or they are just down in the dumps could join and possibly find themselves through Girls Rock.


Witch Jail

Desperation Beach (tape, Woody Records)

The appeal of Ben Hughes’ recordings for Woody Records is that they’re lo-fi, but in the sense that they’re simple and reduced to their bare parts — not in the sense that they sound like they were recorded in a tin can. Witch Jail’s surf-infused garage reverberates with echoes, like a crazed psychedelic dream. Songs pull lyrical inspiration from old EC horror comics and lurid pulp paperbacks, full of sin and monsters. A primitive backbeat and sinuous guitar weave a hypnotic trance, and by album’s end, you may have fallen under this quartet’s spell.

What was the process of recording your album like?

Guy Slimey (vocals): Quick and to the point. Also: unusually sober. We recorded it in an empty town hall and put mics everywhere — amps, drums, opposing ends of the room, even along a concrete hallway that led to the bathroom. I wanted to catch every echo.

Who took the reins on this album?

This album was recorded by our good pal Ben Hughes (of Mr. and the Mrs. and Woody Records). He’s the hardest working guy I know. He’s got a great ear for something as stripped-down as this was. I wouldn’t have trusted it to anyone else.

Where are you going for the next year — be it musically or physically, in terms of touring?

Depending on how deep of a shitpile the Trumpocalypse heaps on us, I’d like to hit the road a couple of times. I’ve never seen an ocean before, and I think people would love us on the coasts.


Gnarly Davidson

“Jabber Jaw”/”Coffin Nail” (7-inch, Replay Records)

Can I get a Hot shit!? After a cassette release in fall of 2014, we’d heard nothing from Lawrence’s finest purveyors of stoner jams in terms of recorded output. Just in time for Christmas comes this slab of wax, with two songs capable of blowing your stereo apart. The A-side, “Jabber Jaw,” is slow and sludgy, and the B-side, “Coffin Nail,” manages to mash Kyuss and Coalesce together in a manic, throbbing burst of energy that demands you bow down and worship at its altar. We suggest offerings of cheap beer and Parliament cigarettes to appease the gods of rock.

Why release on vinyl?

Franklin Fantini (drums): Why not? Replay offered to put it out for us. Also, you can play it on 33 or 45, and Sam (Gunnerson, bass and vocals) is the only one of us who has ever released anything on vinyl. We all play lots of records at home. And singles are great — and hard to get tired of.

Who took the reins on this single?

We all took about equal part of the reins on this single. These were the first two songs we wrote after moving into Seedco for a practice space in early 2016.

Where are you going for the next year — be it musically or physically, in terms of touring?

We’ll physically go any place where they’ll let us play. Seriously, we love to tour. Sam’s personal goal is that we get to play at Dollywood. Mitch (Jones, guitar and vocals) really wants to play at Six Flags. Also, we haven’t played the Booby Trap Bar, so I guess that’s on the bucket list.


Merlin

Electric Children (double LP, Poisoned Mind Records)

If the release of its concept album, Christ Killer, earlier this year left you wanting more, Kansas City doom metal act Merlin has some good news for you. The double LP that is Electric Children might not have the lyrical scope of their previous release, but it does have a 23-minute, four-part suite to close out the album. “Tales of the Wasteland” is an epic jam that’s sure to slake the thirst of Sleep fans the world over. Those following the riff to the smoke-filled land will find much to love from this double slab of amplifier worship.

What was the process of recording your album like?

Jordan Knorr (vocals): We started writing the album in August of 2014 with “Night Creep.” From then on throughout 2015, we wrote and recorded the album in pairs. This gave us some needed time between sessions to really imagine where we wanted the next few songs to go and give us a chance to revisit songs we recorded previously. Additionally, we spent a lot more time in the studio itself, working with Bret of Red Roof Productions.

How was the process of recording a full-length after doing an LP earlier this year?

A relief. Christ Killer was fun, but we all got tired of playing the same songs over and over again. We don’t like staying in one territory for too long, which is why, when we first started talking about Electric Children, we were all super-excited to get going on it. Stepping away from the conceptual ground of Christ Killer gave us so much more breathing room to just write a bunch of unrelated songs spanning whatever genres we wanted.


Heidi Lynne Gluck

Pony Show (LP, Lotuspool Records)

The full-length follow-up to last year’s EP, The Only Girl in the Room, is gorgeous. Heidi Lynne Gluck has the unique ability to take a song such as “Sadness Is Psychedelic” and make it seem both astonishingly intimate and big enough to fill a theater simultaneously. Gluck’s soaring voice, paired with songs both quiet and loud — sometimes within the same cut, as on “I Like ‘Em Cruel” — will readily remind listeners of Neko Case, but she’s by no means aping Case’s style. Pony Show is an album that reveals a little more every time you drop the needle, and you’ll find yourself doing so time and again.

Why release on vinyl?

Heidi Lynne Gluck: My label, Lotuspool, asked me to choose between CD or vinyl, and it was an obvious choice for me: I prefer listening to vinyl, and I like thinking about album sequence in terms of sides. I’ve released or been a part of many records in the last 15 years, starting in 200, with the vinyl release of the Pieces’ self-titled record. The vinyl records I’ve made have a special spot in my heart and in my house, so if there is a chance for vinyl, I’m gonna take it.

I do love having CDs in the car, though! I love the way they get tossed around and sit in a CD player for weeks and weeks so you hear it over and over again a thousand times. It’s a bummer that they don’t have much longevity, though. I have great mix CDs from two years ago that no longer plays without constant skipping.

I knew that many listeners would hear Pony Show digitally, on crappy computer speakers while browsing Facebook or through their phone speakers, so I wanted the physical version to be the best we could offer.

What was the process of recording your album like?

I recorded the album over a span of nine months or something. The tracking was done in my living room. I engineered everything except vocals, and then went to Paul Mahern’s studio in Bloomington, Indiana, to do vocals and replace some of my drums that just weren’t doing it for me. Half of the songs featured drummer Ben Lumsdaine (Spissy, Lil Bub, Mike Adams at His Honest Weight, Diane Coffee), and he was amazing! It can be an awkward thing to drum to mostly finished tracks, but he did it seamlessly and with a ton of heart. I also had a couple of other special guests — co-writer Kenny Childers came over to sing background vocals, and David England played guitar on a track.

How do you feel about the response from listeners thus far?

Response has been great! I think people are enjoying the record. I’ve had some people reach out specifically to tell me that it’s helping them get through a tough period in their life, so that obviously means a lot to me. We’re getting decent radio play locally, and the song “Jumping Vows” was picked up by Tig Notaro’s new show, One Mississippi.

Who took the reins on this album — it was all you, right?

Yes, it was all me, except for what I said above about finishing it with Paul. When it came time to do vocals — most of the songs I sang at Paul’s studio — I happily handed him the reins so I could get out of the producer headspace and into a singer’s headspace. Two very different things. I’ve been working in the studio with Paul for 15 years, so there is a very high level of trust. He is also the person who urged me to record my EP and record on my own.

Paul is an incredible vocal producer. Amazing vintage vocal chain and his 30 years of producing records aside, he is a yogi who prioritizes bringing a state of relaxation and sureness into his sessions. I was able to let my brain go and be in the ether, let my voice be grounded in my body, let the songs move through me. I became a better singer during that time and was really happy to get Paul’s ear invested before the final mixing process. For many of the songs, Paul mixed as we went.

What was it like recording a full-length after doing an EP just last year?

I started recording this thinking it was going to be the second EP. I had four songs completed, and then Chris [Garibaldi] at Lotuspool asked if I’d be up for doing a full-length. So, I went from being, like, 80 percent done to being 40 percent done! It was a bit daunting, but I was excited to go through the process.

Where are you going for the next year?

The rest of the year will be a few local shows, writing, demoing and updating my recording setup. I’ll also be working on rebuilding the Pony Show band, as we sadly lost two members to California jobs this season. I’ll be helping finish up the Roseline’s new record, and playing more shows with them.

Next year, I plan to tour the Northwest and the Northeast, as well as an I-29 North route that I can frequent, since I’m always driving it to visit my family in Manitoba. I’ll also look to collaborate with other songwriters and musicians, write a record, start a plan for the next release, release a duet EP, organize another Girls Rock Camp — and, hopefully, a Ladies Rock Camp — here in Lawrence, and start preparing my experimental side project called Lady Doctor. Hopefully I get at least one of those things done.

Categories: Music