DC’s music scene — past and present — is known for producing some of the most iconoclastic and fiercely independent music makers around. Of course, it’s hard not to mention Dischord or Chuck Brown in any discussion about DC music, but as this 15-track playlist can attest, there is so much more to celebrate.
Lovingly curated by WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE co-host Rick Taylor, and special guests Paul Vodra from Hometown Sounds and JosaFeen Wells from DMV KARS, these 15 tracks cover a wide spectrum of past and present DC music makers.
If you have a sweet tooth for wildly idiosyncratic old-school tunes, Rick has got you covered. For the new school music lovers, Paul and JosaFeen’s selections speak to the breadth of talent and creativity that continues to make our nation’s capitol one of the most exciting cities for music. Happy listening…
5 old-school DC picks from Rick Taylor:
Urban Verbs — “Subways” (1980)
Urban Verbs are one of the best kept secret’s of DC’s late 70s/early 80s post-punk scene. My friend Chris Goett, who runs Etxe Records and writes songs and plays guitar in Silo Halo, gave me one of their records as a gift. The band was fronted by Roddy Frantz, brother of Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz. Supposedly Eno was a fan. One listen to “Subways” and it’s easy to see why.
Tiny Desk Unit — “Couscous” (Live at Hurrah) (1981)
Years before Bob Boilen created All Songs Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts for NPR, he played synths in a quirky DC band called Tiny Desk Unit. The band had more in common musically with late 70s/early 80s U.K. avant pop acts like Family Fodder or Flying Lizards than their District punk brethren. “Couscous” shows off just how delightfully oddball this band can be. The fact that live footage exists of them is the most wonderful of small miracles.
Velvet Monkeys — “Everything Is Right” (1982)
Before Don Fleming produced records for Sonic Youth, Screaming Trees, Teenage Fanclub and Hole, he fronted Velvet Monkeys, an arty, minimalist post-punk band from the District that sounded little like else from the District. “Everything Is Right” is the killer title track from the band’s 1982 cassette-only release. It was recorded by the late (and truly great) Skip Groff at the legendary Inner Ear Studios with Don Zientara.
Chalk Circle — “The Slap” (1981)
The raw and rhythmic sounds of Chalk Circle were courtesy of two DC musicians: Anne Bonafede and Sharon Cheslow. Drawing inspiration from bands such as The Raincoats and Liliput, as well as go-go and jazz, the duo broke down gender barriers at a time when DC’s music scene was almost universally male. “The Slap” encapsulates what I love about the band — it has a percussive, angular edge and an energetic “fight the system” attitude that is contagious.
Black Tambourine — “For Ex-Lovers Only” (1992)
Black Tambourine are one of the most influential independent bands to emerge from the DC area, particularly on a whole generation of bands equally obsessed with smart pop hooks, fuzzy guitars and cavernous reverb. The band only recorded a handful of EPs in the early 90s, but the quality of these recordings has stood the test of time. “For Ex-Lovers Only” is simply awesome — a perfect 3 minute distillation of the thunderous power and might of indie vocalist extraordinare Pam Berry and musicians Archie Moore, Brian Nelson and Slumberland Records head honcho Mike Schulman.
5 new school picks from Paul Vodra…
Iza Flo – “Free Fallin’” (2019)
Isabelle De Leon’s expansive lady dance-rock ensemble Iza Flo looks like they are having mountains of fun on this soulful groove “Free Fallin'”.
Lisa Frank & Rez Ekbatan – Whisper (Outputmessage Remix) (2019)
Director Nigel Lyons caught this captivating single take of DJ & producer Outputmessage performing his remix of “Whisper” by Lisa Frank & Rez Ekbatan in a church, with a fabulous reveal at the end.
Wall of Trophies – “Something” (2019)
In “Something” by atmospheric duo Wall of Trophies, the deft, big production by Will Copps leaves singer Brittany Jean’s voice clear in the mix of the slow-groove dance floor killer, while the video evolves into deeper abstractions and filters.
Loi Loi – “Sliver Light” (2019)
Synth diva Loi Loi’s video for “Sliver Light” from director Jen Meller is a tale of four women (Alexys Forrest of (Alexys Forrest of Danger Sluts, Krystal Ashley of “Scenes from Backstage”, Jax Caruso of The Galaxy Electric, and Freddie Heinemann of Fisk) ditching unappreciative partners for a psychedelic dance party.
Honest Haloway – “Atonement” (2019)
Synthrock band Honest Haloway’s video for “Atonement,” shot by frontman Tim Kratzer’s wife Sara Nabizadeh on location in Namibia, is astounding and arresting in its beauty and mystery.
5 new school picks from JosaFeen Wells…
Amerie — “1 Thing” (2005)
This record was produced by Rich Harrison from D.C. grammy winner- wrote beyonce’s crazy in love. Amerie is from DC as well.
Garbagemen – “Crab Legs” (2018)
2 Girl EDM group from D.C. ladies play and sing with beautiful harmony and hypnotizing melody’s fun fact band member Leah Cage plays for local band BRNDA.
April + Vista – “Own2” (2018)
Who doesn’t like a dope male n female duo? April has an amazing voice and a true gift for songwriting. This is just dope flippin’ music!
2DCat — “I Feel You” (2019)
I ran across these guys and super glad I did. 2019. Synth. Wave. Period! Nuff said, but really this group makes me feel good and young again. Wait leave out the young part..I’m not old.
Beau Young Prince — “Let Go” (2019)
This young man is representing for the city for real. His stage presence is energetic and contagious. He has a beautiful way to tell his story and struggle but also delivers the feeling of hope. A true hustler and someone making major strides. Don’t sleep. Funfact…did a show at Songbyrd about a month ago.
Want more? Check out the Oct. 4th edition of WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE featuring guest dj Paul Vodra (HOMETOWN SOUNDS) and JosaFeen’s awesome band DMV KARS!
And check out Paul Vodra’s excellent Hometown Sounds blog and podcast.