Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN
The Key’s Year-End Mania: Brian Wilensky’s favorite long jams of the year
Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2019 incredible. Today, Key writer Brian Wilensky presents essential extended listens from 2019.
It’s 2019 and your attention span is shot. But some music is best taken in with your undivided attention. Let it air out. There are times for being punchy and times to explore. It’s important to find the right space for each. Taking in a long song can help you reflect on what you’re hearing in the moment rather than something as a song a whole. And instead of getting long winded about it, here are a few of my favorite long songs of 2019.
USA/Mexico – “Anxious Whitey”
Screw your neighbors and screw your speakers, turn this one up. You won’t be able to handle it anyway. “Anxious Whitey” is neither for the faint of heart, nor the barely-hanging-on. Matamoros isn’t an album for water-cooler talk and may not even be for your one friend that can’t stop listening to Relapse bands. Don’t proceed with caution, take this one on full bore.
White Fence – “Harm Reduction 1 (Morning)” and “Harm Reduction 2 (Street & Inside Mind)”
There’s something soothing in these two pieces. It’s not something tangible. They aren’t necessarily thought-provoking, but they’re undoubtably evocative. There’s nuance and clarity. They come from a specific place and envelope listeners in something womb-like. Each occupies their own side of the second disc of White Fence’s criminally overlooked 2019 album, I Have to Feed Larry’s Hawk. And if you know anything about Tim Presley, his work as White Fence and his contributions to the San Francisco garage rock crowd he runs with, you’ll be happily surprised to find these two synth explorations work just fine with its album, somehow.
Chris Forsyth – “Techno Top”
Put “Techno Top” high on your playlist for the next time your long-haired friends come around. Gradual buildups in jam-oriented songs such as one like this can be played out. But Forsyth nails this one just right as he keeps right on the line between catchy riff and just noodley enough. Reaching its peak without some kind of massive explosion makes “Techno Top” a little extra intuitive. It caps off Forsyth’s All Time Present, an album stacked with long players, giving the perfect attention detail and letting you down softly from what is a far traversing trip.
Garcia Peoples – “One Step Behind”
Garcia Peoples keep it on “One Step Behind,” a nearly 32-minute interstellar voyage. This one’s far from a practice in subtlety. The extended sunny dreamscape intro gets cut off abruptly by a fuzz wah-guitar that can singe the flowers off your favorite paisley shirt. The several guitar layers bounce and phase about until it’s a mellow drone following the song’s only vocal section. Time gets cut in half until slowly unravels beam after beam over a horizon before a psych rock freakout. “One Step Behind” hits so many different levels it’s easy to forget it’s all the same song. A jam like this one is all about the exploration. If you don’t push on to those extended lengths, how would you find out what’d come of the jam anyway? Check out Garcia Peoples with Chris Forsyth and Ryley Walker at Jerry’s on Front on 12/31 at 8 p.m. I heard there’s going to be a keg.