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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Listening with Ivan Howard

Posted by on Wed, Dec 11, 2013 at 4:08 PM

click to enlarge Ivan Howard - PHOTO COURTESY OF SPACEBOMB RECORDS
  • Photo courtesy of Spacebomb Records
  • Ivan Howard
Though he’s best known for The Rosebuds’ hook-laden, synth-leaning pop, Ivan Howard has long had a taste for soul music. He proved that point last year with a sleek and passionate reinterpretation of Sade’s Love Deluxe, and he’s doing it again with Howard Ivans, a new project that finds him exploring brisk Midwestern funk. Teaming with Matthew E. White and his Spacebomb Records, a label and production house based in Virginia that uses a house band to back up various singers, he recorded two songs—collected on Howard Ivans’ 7-inch debut and released last month.

With Howard and White taking turns leading the Spacebomb band at Kings on Saturday, we asked Ivan to spin a few songs and offer his thoughts, hoping for some insight into his very diverse tastes.

AL GREEN, “LET’S GET MARRIED”

[A highlight from 1973’s Livin’ for You, this breezy number is a classic example of Green’s wistful touch for funk and soul.]

I went through a really big Al Green phase before I first started writing my own music. It was before I would listen to songs to figure out how they did it, and just listened for the fun of it and to sing along. As best I could, that is! This was never one of my favorites, but he does really drive his point across with that repeated chorus.

MICHAEL JACKSON, “WANNA BE STARTIN’ SOMETHIN’”

[“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” kicks of the mega-successful Thriller with one of the most potent grooves Jackson produced during his collaborations with Quincy Jones.]

Jeez, really? One of the greatest songs of all time. "Too high to get over, too low to get under!"  I mean look at all these lyrics. Not only is the music and melody about perfect, but the words are unstoppable.

VAN DYKE PARKS, “PALM DESERT”

[Featured on Parks’ 1968 debut, Song Cycle, “Palm Desert” is a grand and theatrical orchestration, expanding the Pet Sounds-pop art of his frequent collaborator Brian Wilson.]

I wonder why you picked this Van Dyke Parks song? It's kind of too high to get over and too low to get under... I wish it would have started at 1:27. I think there might be a few more notes or sounds left he could have squeezed in there... I do like the bird sounds! I could understand why someone studying music composition would be all over this.

CURTIS MAYFIELD, “GIVE ME YOUR LOVE (LOVE SONG)”

[Found on Mayfield’s soundtrack for the 1972 film Super Fly, this song highlights his ability to craft insistent grooves that land like a delicate caress.]

This song could go on forever, and I would be fine with that. If it was the constant sound of the atmosphere all around us, that would be ideal. I'd even be OK with pumping it through headphones attached to my ears on repeat forever as a permanent soundtrack to the movie called life.

OS MUTANTES, “DON QUIXOTE”

[This song opens Os Mutantes’ second LP. With its Ben-Hur intro bleeding into carefree verses twisted by far-out samples and melted guitar tones, it’s an appropriately bizarre taste of Brazil’s most famous psych purveyors.]

This song has everything you could want! A sound collage that has an awesome intro, too many cool grooves too count, a killer guitar lead, outer space sounds, audience clapping, violin lead, bicycle part sounds, and a language I can't speak or understand—the list goes on and on. But mainly it sounds like it was so much fun to make, and I can get behind that.

NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL, “KING OF CARROT FLOWERS PTS. 2 & 3”

[This rangy and boisterous cut from 1998’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea exemplifies the manic energy that makes the record a classic.]

Who's this band? I've never heard of them before now... I like it. Kind of sounds like The Decemberists caught in a blender at church camp.

But seriously, this is one of those untouchable records. Captured moments when everything came together perfectly. But when I hear this song, the first thing I think about is folding thousands of Flaming Lips T-shirts at Tannis Root when I worked there, while we played this in the background. I never did really like that “Jesus Christ” intro part that much, though.

COLIN STETSON, “BRUTE”

[While his saxophone is key to the ethereal sound of Bon Iver’s second, self-titled LP, Stetson’s solo work depends on aggressive tones made unending by his mastery of circular breathing.]

Colin is one of the world's best saxophonists, I'm told. I do, however, wonder if he can play the lead to "Careless Whisper" by heart or some of INXS's "Never Tear Us Apart"? That would be my main reason to play the sax. The stuff he is doing here is another world. It's really amazing to see this song performed live. Not sure my mom would be into it.

THE ROSEBUDS, “FEEL NO PAIN”

[This song comes from The Rosebuds’ full-length cover of Sade’s modern soul hallmark Love Deluxe.]

This was a really fun project to do. Every time I hear this song I think of my 1976 Chevy Nova and the LED meters going up and down on the equalizer I bought from Roses as I played Sade's original as loud as I could. I can even still smell the plastic.


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With Howard and Matthew E. White taking turns leading the Spacebomb band at Kings on Saturday, we asked Ivan to spin a few songs and offer his thoughts, hoping for some insight into his very diverse tastes.

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