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The list: Five local releases you should track down
Here’s a little-known fact about me. I was once a college-radio DJ. For two semesters between my freshman and sophomore years I held the 3 to 6 p.m. slot at KFSR. It’s pretty certain no one listened.
It would be nice to say this is where I learned to love Fresno’s music scene, but back then the local rack was a couple of Sparklejet albums and a New Rock 104 comp—in other words, scarce. There were plenty of bands playing, but most weren’t recording and releasing material.
Now it seems like every week another band is releasing a CD/tape/record. In the past year we’ve seen music from Rademacher/Fay Wrays/Quiet Americans (also known as all of the bands in which Eli Reyes plays drums), Sahab, Grand Canopy, Brother Luke and the Comrades and Fierce Creatures. In the next few weeks, Religious Appeal will release “Sounds from Below,” a compilation of 17 tracks from some of Fresno’s louder bands.
And you could create a much long list if you wanted. It’s a boom time for local releases.
In that spirit, we’ve come up with a list of five local-releases you may have missed the first time around.
1.) “Into Outer Space” with Lucia Pamela, 1969
The lowdown: Lucia Pamela was … eclectic let’s says. She was a childhood piano prodigy, a member of the Musical Pirates (the nation’s first all-female orchestra), Miss St. Louis 1929 and the host of two radio shows. Locally, she was also the first manager of Storyland Park (in 1962) and was known to drive a huge, pink Cadillac down Blackstone Avenue to peddle her album at Tower Records. The album, released in 1969 is an imaginary account of a trip to the moon, and as such, is suitably odd. Why you need it: Pamela is a cult heroine of sorts. In 1992, she was featured in the book “Songs in the Key of Z: the Curious Universe of Outsider Music” and the pop group Stereolab recorded “International Colouring Contest” as a tribute to her.
2.) “Music to Bowl By,” Let’s Go Bowling, 1994
The lowdown: The cover art for “Music to Bowl By” was taken inside Freeway Lanes bowling alley in Selma. To a high-schooler who was in a ska band AND bowled, this was like treasure. Why you need it: There is a reason that Let’s Go Bowling can still pack a house after 25 years, and this album has it. This is a classic of third-wave traditional ska and the album that spawned Fresno’s ska scene in the late ‘90s.
3.) “Appendix Sessions: Vol. 1,” various artists, Greytank Records, 2004
The lowdown: This was the first release from the short-lived Fresno label—they also put out albums from No Cello and Bel and The Dragon. It features 24 songs from 12 bands, all recorded at Gardenside Studios. There are standout tracks from known names (Pinkeye and Sleepover Disaster) along with bands that sadly, time forgot (Ira, the Insects and Free Dirt). Why you need it: The compilation has a documentarian feel and is a solid snapshot of Fresno’s indie scene circa 2004,
4.) “Beyond the Beyond,” SparkleJet, 2006
The lowdown: Sparklejet is the quintessential Fresno rock band—fierce and loud and uncontrived. When the band decided to pool resources and take a trip to Chicago to record with legendary sound engineer Steve Albini (who recorded classic albums for the Pixies and Nirvana) it was a given the album would be good. Why you need it: It rocks. Also, it was engineered by Steve Albini.
5.) “Boy Meets World,” Fashawn, 2009
The lowdown: People were talking about Fashawn before “Boy Meets World” dropped in 2009, but his album cemented his place as a serious up-and-comer. In 2010 he was featured on the cover of XXL as part of the XXL Freshman 10 line-up and has since toured with the likes of Ghostface Killah, The Grouch and Wiz Khalifa. Why you need it: When Fashawn plays Saturday at the Cellar Door in Visalia you’ll want to be able to sing along.