The Darcys: “The River”

It’s time for a little late night drive. Passing through city lights, everyone out and wasted, I’m pretending to know their conversations. Windows closed, the silence in my car larger than the life outside of it. Some holding hands, others dancing on the sidewalks, more running through the streets. I grip the cold […]

[Hype Hype Hooray] Musicians After Music – Vol. 1: Jon Ragel

HypeHypeHoorayNEWThis is the first installment in a series that looks at the lives of musicians as they walk down new paths in life. Whether for family, health or other creative endeavors, the choice to take time off from music is never easy. 

Jon Ragel sits in his southeast Portland kitchen, gazing out the window. We’re eating tacos and drinking beer, talking about his recent transformation from musician into writer. “It just seems like a natural thing to do,” he says at last. “You gotta do it.”

Ragel has spent nearly his entire life playing music. He’s played in several bands, but split off on his own in 2005 to become Boy Eats Drum Machine, a solo project that earned him a strong following across the west. Acclaim followed – most of his records have been well received by critics, and a pair of songs have found their way into the mainstream subconscious by way of GoPro and Major League Soccer.

But this past winter, sometime around his 39th birthday, Ragel suddenly decided to change his direction. “I still don’t know why,” he tells me. But that’s not entirely true. He knows all too well what drew him away from music: the allure of the novel. One day a story fell into his head, he says, expanding and swelling, quickly outgrowing the space in his mind. He had to write it down.

His story is set in a future dystopia, one where society has made the prison population into a viable commodity by turning their blood into something farmable. The narration follows a man who gets himself imprisoned to steal the technology that makes it all possible. It’s sharp, sociopolitical science fiction – a far cry from Ragel’s songwriting.

Still, the story shows Ragel’s hallmark creative flair. The prison where much of it takes place is a surreal facility laid out in the shape of a human body. To get there, shackled prisoners trek across the vast, empty landscape of eastern Oregon. And while this world is clear in Ragel’s mind, the process of getting it out has been tricky.

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Podcast Painkillers

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Editor’s NotePlease welcome new Knox Road contributor, Art Tavana. Art is based in L.A. and will be writing long-form, short-form and everything in between. Enjoy his first piece about our favorite kind of people. [Image via Lovato Design, photo by Joslyn Baker.]

Music snobbery is rooted in the blind pursuit of a transient experience; a temporary fix predicated on unearthing new music during the incubation phase of an artist’s career. But unless you’re Lester Bangs discovering Astral Weeks for the first time, it usually amounts to wasted hours on SoundCloud listening to bands that sound like shit Robin Pecknold wrote during a moonshine-induced bath in the backwoods of some mountainous terrain in the Pacific Northwest. While the archeologist (i.e. Indiana Jones) is rewarded with recognition in ’80s adventure movies and gooey diary entries from starry-eyed college girls who have a thing for bull-whips — the music snob is fulfilled with the momentary experience of listening to a band with 12 ‘Likes’ on Facebook that some tattooed baristas might find ‘interesting.’ It’s the experience of downloading a mixtape by a rapper named Jonwayne, who takes you back to a Brian Eno record during a daytime nap, followed by wondering why you’re listening to Beethoven’s Ninth, drunk, and writing about a band that sounds like the Savages, but looks like the Bangles. Coffee with condensed milk and a side of KCRW’s Morning Become Eclectic is routine. The need to break through the doors of perception and find something different becomes habitual.

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[Abby’s Road] Here’s a wagon, get on it.

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Good day, nerds. It’s been a while.

So. Swag. I collect a little bit of it. Band swag, I mean. You know, merch and such. Over the years I have accumulated a pretty lovely limited edition poster collection. I shell out the cash, try to keep them in decent condition throughout the gig (remember, they are limited so it’s essential to grab them before the show even starts) and bring the cumbersome bastards home. Of course they sit for a while and, eventually, wind up framed and grace the walls for everyone’s enjoyment.  Badges as well. I love a good badge. T-Shirts not so much. When I was younger, yes. I still have many of them. These days the standard shirts are a little too boxy, the “ladies fit” a little too snug. When bands start cranking out a-line mini dresses with their faces splashed across the front maybe I’ll buy. Seems unlikely.

Or does it?

Let me preface this whole tirade by saying that I do own a pair of Of Montreal bikini underpants. Pink ones. Hypocritical? Probably. That being said…

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[Hype Hype Hooray] The Addict is Back

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Note: About a year ago I wrote a column highlighting my addiction to procuring and listening to new music. After my external hard drive crashed, I reevaluated my life and took a much-needed sabbatical. But after recently giving in to Spotify, I have felt the monster of addiction return, like a cold, dark moon creeping over the horizon. The following was written in the midst of a recent all-day Spotify binge.

I feel it all I feel it all I feel it all sings Feist so sweetly into the chasm inside my head, so deep and empty and space so much empty space such a vast endless void for it all for me to take it all in. I search and navigate and discover and gasp and save it as a playlist always save it as a playlist making playlists from my playlists playing lists of all my playlists, and then there’s friends’ lists and critics’ lists and musicians’ lists too many lists and I can’t help myself can’t help myself but to feel it all and feel it all and hear it all and feel it all.

Chromatics take me into the black. Crystal Castles give me the plague. Flaming Lips show me the terror. Jagwar Ma has me howlin’. The Nighttime Adventure Society brings the doctor. Kendrick Lamar kills my vibe. Alt-J dissolves me. Wampire pulls up in the hearse. Modest Mouse buries me with it. King Tuff is dancing on my grave. Michael Kiwanuka takes me home again where my eyes flutter open to the dawn of a new day another chance to immerse my tender mind in the cluttered infinity of the world of music day after day all over again.

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Monument Valley: “Walking Home”

“Walking Home” is the second single off the debut Monument Valley LP. The smooth vocals and harmonies melt me.

Listen to the first single, “When I Go Clear.”

Monument Valley on the web | Facebook | Knox […]

[MP3] Yellerkin: “Solar Laws”

She’s sitting, staring out at the small lake behind the house. Dark clouds appear in the distance, moving quickly towards her. She looks down; the far edge of the lake shows tiny little circles, making their way closer. The circles multiply, getting bigger and fast approaching. Her friends rush into the house, grabbing […]

Alice and the Glass Lake’s ‘The Evolution’ EP

Alice Lake has returned to my life in convincing fashion with her debut EP, The Evolution. Mixing sounds that you may not typically hear together — tender singer/songwriter vocals with some heavy electronic/experimental backing — Alice and the Glass Lake provide a delightfully meandering album. It’s clear, however, that the songs are carefully crafted […]