1. Goon des Garcons - "L.A.W.W.D." From my perspective, Goon des Garcons did more than anyone else in 2015 to make Little Rock look like a fun place to make art, and that accomplishment alone demands respect. He also happens to be an almost compulsively ambitious rapper, continually raising the bar for the production value and reach of his and his friends' work. Arkansas tends to prefer a kind of modest, slacker self-effacement from its artists, and so Goon's loud pride might scan as uncouth; but the guy is explicitly attempting to start a movement, to get some momentum going. And look at what he did.
2. John McAteer and Gentlemen Firesnakes - "Consequences" Here's something from "Monterey Canyon," the new LP from Little Rock's John McAteer and Gentlemen Firesnakes, recorded by Jason Weinheimer at Fellowship Hall Sound. A song about television, physical and spiritual isolation, drinking, mistakes — and is that a melodica?
3. Take Shapes - "Tiny Spears" From the moody and accomplished new record "Raised by Wolves," by Fayetteville band Take Shapes — recommended for fans of angular math rock, though this one is closer to slowcore, bottom-heavy and Bedhead-bleak.
4. Solo Jaxon - "Keep Up" Little Rock's Solo Jaxon has emerged in the last couple of months as one of our most exciting young rappers — his flow is precise and percussive, and he has a real point of view. Following his recent stuff has felt like watching an artist find his sound; it feels crucial and thrilling. His output has been sparse so far (I think?), but watch this space.
5. La Petite Roche - "Capital View (To A Kill)" A welcome dispatch from Little Rock musician Mark Lewis, who left the city in September only to release this, his magnum opus, a tribute to Little Rock he calls "a love sonic to a city." Part secret-history and part speculative fiction, the record blends (very homemade) indie rock and dub, a wild dream-diary of impressionistic memories and meditations on the city's past. This song features vocals by Jeremy Brasher (Lewis' bandmate in The Moving Front and a columnist for Rock Candy) and has something to do with time travel, cat theft and Little Rock's Capitol View neighborhood.
6. Young Spielberg - "Before I Go" Young Spielberg is the new project by Ike Peters of The Coasts (who made one of our favorite Little Rock records of 2014). Peters has a gift for earworm melodies and subtle presentation — this song has a burnout-lullaby quality that's pretty affecting.
Any new Kari Faux is a cause for celebration, and the Little Rock expat recently announced she had a new album finished and forthcoming, "Lost En Los Angeles. " Here's the great first single, produced by longtime collaborator bLAck pARty. I interviewed the two of them a couple of years ago, when they left town — seems like a long time ago now. /more/
Fresco Grey is so good he makes me proud to live in Little Rock. How often can you say that? "I'm just sitting back doing algebra," he says at one point, because why not? My only problem with this song is that it should be about twelve times longer. /more/
Former Gunbunnies front-man and Little Rock expat Chris Maxwell has a new album coming out March 4, "Arkansas Summer," and Paste premiered the great title track this week. Pre-order the record at Pledge Music. /more/
Fayetteville's The Wandering Lake — the recording project of Brian Kupillas — released a new set of songs on Bandcamp this week and they are predictably great. The EP, "From James' Garden" comes after, Kupillas says, "what felt like a long drought of spirit." Find him on Tumblr, where he posts new music plus photos of elephants and body-builders. /more/
Kind of like the Buddy Holly song, but more ambivalent and tense and anyway louder. “Holly looked for space in the noise,” Greil Marcus wrote of Holly once. “He built his music around silences, pauses, a catch in the throat, a wink.” Little Rock's The Uh Huhs are up to something similar — space in the noise, a wink. You can find this song on their debut 7", which will presumably be available soon (will updated when I know). /more/
I'm pretty sympathetic toward any attempt at making a Little Rock anthem, and this one isn't bad as far as it goes. "Bangin' in the Rock ain't dead," Ekko Muzic says, which is both an obvious gesture and a deeply subversive one — to point out that the past isn't the past, the city's old issues and tensions and divisions remain urgent and troubling, which seems inarguable and worth mentioning occasionally. Local anthems are necessary and positive by definition — it's good to talk about your surroundings, even if "try not to get shot" is the message you come up with. /more/
Express Rising was originally the recording moniker of Chicago's Dante Carfagna, a record collector and producer associated with the great archival label Numero Group. With his new release, "Fixed Rope," Carfanga has added William Suran and Fayetteville's Kevin Blagg, who also records under the name Cellophane Garden; the trio recorded the album somewhere in "rural Arkansas" with synths, pedal steel, banjo and a wash of reverb, loose atmosphere and mysticism. It's an ambient record with a real sense of place, and it's one of my favorite Arkansas releases in months. /more/
I talked to Liquid Skulls for the paper a couple of weeks ago, and he explained that the recording project "was formed out of cobwebs, boredom, sloppiness, euphoria, joblessness, fleeting moments, liquid curses and lost responsibilities." All of this comes through in his new track "Rituals," which sounds like a computer projection of a pop song wrapped in bubble-wrap and stomped on. /more/
It's a quick show, so don't put it off: "An Italy Experience: Reflections on the Past and Present," figurative work by Laura Raborn, is at Boswell Mourot Fine Art Feb. 28 through March 5. March 21-April 2.
"Sharkansas," the new mixtape from Little Rock rapper Lo Thraxx has been one of our most anticipated local releases of the year, and it's out as of this afternoon. It features Two 9's Curtis Williams, Raz Fresco, Houston rappers Doeman and Roosh Williams, plus production by Fresco Grey, Trakksounds and others.