Friends Records is a label that features releases from Baltimore artists (plus one release from Meth Dad, a non-Baltimore musician). They just celebrated their fifth anniversary (which is where the picture of label head Jimmy was taken jamming to Microkingdom on night 1 of the festivities). Friends Records is just that, people who are friends (and also make great music). Over the last five years, they have put out rock and hip hop and jazz and anything you can think of.
I am not going to link to all of the artists pages, just to Friends Records Bandcamp, where you can find these and other tunes. I will talk about each of the songs/artists in the tracklist.
Edit: I am adding in label head Jimmy’s comments on each release.
Tracklist (quotes are Jimmy MacMillan):
- Chester Endersby Gwazda – Globes: I have seen Chester a few times, and he is always a blast. Shroud is a great album and I find my self revisiting it quite often.
Chester has been such a big part of the label as far as production goes. He recorded more than a handful of our releases and has always been an excellent friend, resource and all around man of inspiration. He has new material coming out with Outer Spaces in 2015!
- INEVERYROOM – EM E GEE: I am not sure what happened to them. I believe this is one of the oldest releases on this mix.
INEVERYROOM is Chase O’Hara and Amy Reid … became Chase N’ Amy for a minute and eventually they started Chiffon together. Our most limited release is a INEVERYROOM/Lands And Peoples split cassette which was our 2nd cassette release. We only ever made 23 copies for a tour that they did. I’ve completely worn out my only copy and it doesn’t exist digitally. FRCS002 RIP. Long live Chiffon!
- Celebration – I Will Not Fall: I love Celebration, and singer Katrina Ford. Their music is beautiful and is almost transcendent live.
For me, there is no almost about it. In 2009 Celebration started releasing songs and videos for Hello Paradise – Electric Tarot in a digital format only. For the first year that the label existed, Brett Yale, the other half of Friends Records, had been emailing the band, offering up our services, on a regular basis. One night he got an email asking if we could all sit down. We went over together and before we went in we sat in the car and talked about how weird it was that we were meeting people that we didn’t know really and seeing if we could work together. Up until that point we had only ever worked with people that either one or the other of us had known already. So we went into Katrina and Sean’s house. We spent about 3 hours sitting around a kitchen table making 6 great new friends. 4 years later I still find myself sitting at that kitchen table listening to and telling stories and jokes and talking shop. You really couldn’t ask for a more complimentary band to associate ourselves with. They brought a lot of attention to a lot of other bands just by working with us and for that I am forever grateful. They ruled the second half of 2014 and I don’t see 2015 being any different.
- Blacksage – Sexsomnia: Pure sex in music form. One of the best things I have heard in a while. Electronic jams for days.
Josie and Drew don’t sound like Baltimore to me. They don’t sound like anywhere. Their music is all encompassing and blocks out any light from the outside world when you play it. I know that they already have some new Blacksage material in the works but Drew Scott just dropped The Drewcifer Tape last month and Josie is hard at work on both Softeyes and her solo work. They’re both fountains of awesome shit right now. Get a cup and try to catch some while its flowing!
- Moss of Aura – Slick: Future Islands synth man rides the solo jams.
Looking to reissue Wading in LP (it’s sold out currently) and we have been talking about a cassette boxset rather than individual reissues of his 6 (!) albums again. I don’t think there is any movement in the Moss Of Aura department at the moment but he is out setting the world on fire with his friends.
- Ke$ha – Die Young (Meth Dad Remix): Meth Dad dropped an awesome cassette of remixes for Friends Records and earned the distinction of being the first person not from Baltimore to be released by the label.
I’ve talked about Meth Dad aka Tyler Walker recently. Dude changed the way that I listen to pop music in a huge way. He just put out a remix of Taylor Swifts “shake it off” on his soundcloud. While I would never advocate for Swift, Meth Dads remix is outstanding and should be played in every coke commercial and New Year’s Eve party ever.
- Flock of Dimes – Prison Bride: Jenn From Wye Oak’s excellent side project. I hope for an album all the time.
You and me both. Jenn always surprises me: This year I saw her take part in the Gene Clark tribute at Floristree and 9:30 Club. They were 2 of the best live performances that I’ve ever seen. I don’t expect it to be topped ever for me. Then I drove up to Lancaster and watched her and Andy move a whole room of people as Wye Oak. I think that they’re on top of their game with their latest album and doing the most interesting music since the Monarch days. Then there was her Flock Of Dimes performances at Fields Fest and at the Horse Lords release show at the Crown. She had really secured her sound as Flock of Dimes and much like Microkingdom, every time I see her play its my new favorite time that she has played. Total pro with a heart of gold.
- Raindeer – Monster: Raindeer and the chill jam masters. Go see them.
Look for a new Raindeer release very very soon! The set that they played at the recent anniversary show floored me. They’ve come so far as a band since the lineup change.
- Vadya – Out to sea: I saw Vadya in a very intimate setting (at a Mobtown Microshow) recently, and was impressed with her song writing, and slow synth jams.
Brett always had a space reserved for Liz on our roster. It has been 3-4 years now of waiting for “take me out to see” but it was well worth it.
- Height with Friends – Mustard Seed: Height is pretty much king of hip hop.
This song is particular is my jam. Height is the most prolific artist that we work with. He has put out 5 full length albums since we started the label 5 years ago and he has another one in the chamber about to drop real soon. We have been trying our hardest to keep up with him. Look out for his tour later this month.
- Future Islands – The Ink Well: Future Islands just had one hell of a year. I got this vinyl at the release show for it.
This record was the reason that the label was started in the first place. In October 2009, Brett was interviewing Future Islands, drinking beers on a roof, when they started talking about how much they wanted to put out a split with their friends from college, Lonnie Walker. Brett said he would do it and the first light of the label went on. Over the next 2 months we ended up making plans and laying groundwork. In late December 2009 we had our 3rd of 3 Sunday brunches at Morning Edition on Patterson Park (RIP) and decided to go ahead with the idea. We had decided that if we were going to do it that it wouldn’t just be the one release but we would do 3 releases to start (weekends and Sri aurobindo and the f.i/lonnie walker split). Almost immediately the f.i. split got postponed and by early January we decided to release Height With Friends “Bed Of Seeds” in the meantime. We have gone on to work with them every chance that we get. The success that they’ve found came from the hardest hustling and grinding that I’ve ever seen in this business and it couldn’t have happened to a group of kinder and more deserving dudes. I love that they still rep and support us whenever they can and I love continuing to support them. I got to see them live in New York for the Letterman taping this year and you knew right away that they had just changed everything. I also got to see them turn The Avenue in Hampden into a sea of people this summer. Monday I fly out to Boston to follow them for a short run of dates with Wing Dam.
- Wing Dam – Back Float: I probably go on too much about Wing Dam, but I cant help it; they rock. I think they are making the timeless jams.
Speak of the devils. One night ,3 or more years ago, Austin And Sara came into my store and wanted to put their cassettes up for consignment. Austin was Wing Dam and Sara was Which Magic. It was and still is so much fun to watch them grow as artists. They joined forces with eachother and then with former Lower Dens and sometime Snails drummer Abe Sanders. Abe is a hell of a dude. I first met him when he directed a Moss Of Aura video for us and then really got to know eachother a bit better on the Snails tour in early 2013. They’ve kept the candle lit in the Friends Records house a lot this past year, getting all kinds of attention, press and year end list mentions for their most excellent “Shifter Bliss” record.
- Weekends – Basement Fuzz: Too bad they are not a band anymore, but at least I saw them twice last year. I hope this two piece reforms, but geography is making that impossible at the moment.
Look out for Adam Lempel releases this year but no more Weekends for a while. Was glad to see them end it properly at the Ottobar a few weekends ago.
- Sri Aurobindo – Eyes: Old school psychedelic, fuzzed out madness. I am not sure what is going on with them, but I did enjoy their music and seeing them live a few times.
Sri Aurobindo RIP. The band called it quits this past year when one of the members moved away. Mike Romano who played bass/guitar in Sri as well as on the first Vincent Black Shadow record has a new band named Cryptid. They played their first show at the Anniversary shows. The band features Mike, Elijah Forrest, Aaron Estes and Spencer Adams. Expect to hear something sometime.
- the Snails – Coconut Boat: Side project. Members of Future Islands. Saxes. Snail suits.
This is the most fun thing that I’ve done ever. We put out their debut double 7″ and then proceeded to go on tour with them for 8 dates. Most fun. Ever.
- Secret Mountains – Dead Sea: This one saddens me. They release their excellent Rainer LP and then go away due to members moving. Oh well, I at least saw them once in DC. They could have been one of my all time favorites… So good.
- Jacober – New Soda: Dope Body drummer solo shenanigans. This album is fun from start to finish.
Dave Jacober for President! The dude can do no wrong. So chill and so right on with everything he does. He has 2 new solo albums prepped. Both radically different from eachother, both amazing. Keep an eye out for those.
- Microkingdom – God’s Total Woman: Are they jazz? I love them. So I guess I love jazz. They always put on a hell of a show.
I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m a diehard Microkingdom fanatic. I know that I say that every time that I see them is my favorite time but their set on the first night of the anniversary shows was the best thing that I’ve ever seen them do. Look out for the new LP officially getting a release on Valentine’s Day 2015.
(photo by me at Friends Records Fifth Anniversary show Day 1)
I love Baltimore’s music scene over all others, so it gets its own top ten list. In no particular order, my ten favorite Charm City releases for 2014. I also made a mixcloud mix with a track from each.
1. Roomrunner – Ideal Cities: I have been a Roomrunner fan since the first EP. Finally they released a full length. This is throwback noise rock, at times reminiscent of the grunge days, but yet still its own sonic beast. My favorite parts tend to be the squeals between the chords, when experienced live is almost a religious experience. I am glad I can call Baltimore Dragged to Hell’s home base, as I was able to see Roomrunner a total of five times in 2013, and each time was great. For some reason I haven’t seen much love for this album on “Best Of” lists, which is just sad. Maybe this is their Bleach, and everyone else catches on later (yes a Nirvana reference, NO I don’t think they sound like them). Bonus points for being released by one of my favorite labels, Fan Death Records. And double bonus points for Jake Reid of Screen Vinyl Image (another one of my favorite bands) for his excellent mastering work.
2. Wing Dam – Thick Phase / No Splash: The first Friends Records release on this list, and far from the last. Wing Dam used to be a solo act. I never caught Austin Tally live back then, and the music was a bit chill (ie not fuzzed out). Fast forward to 2013, and Wing Dam is a threesome (also featuring Sara Autry aka Which Magic on bass and Abram Sanders on drums). Some of the old tracks are in new form. Some are new. All show a sophisticated sense of songwriting, with the tracks featuring interesting riffs and lyrics that never bore; while at the same time retaining a youthful exuberance. This is a summer record. You put it on while skinny dipping. You put it on around the bonfire. Its joy, but under the surface there is also sadness (like in Stars, “Man, you can months without seeing stars… Start to think things are more important than they are”, a lyric that is very personal as I grew up in a place where you do see stars, and have lived in this area for pretty much my whole adult life). Also Austin has one of those unique singing voices that I instantly fell in love with.
3. Weekends – New Humans: Weekends are a two piece. Drums and guitars. Switched between certain songs. Weekends third full length is more of the same of what I love, reverbed out garage rock with that Baltimore sheen on it (not a literally one, this is dirty fuzzy music). I would also put it in the summer jams section. Sadly I haven’t been able to catch them live since this came out, and look forward to remedying that in 2014. Also courtesy of Friends Records.
4. Secret Mountains – Rainer: Just for tracking purposes, this is Friends Records release three from this list. This one makes me the saddest. After this was released, the band semi-dissolved, with some members including their singer, leaving the band. But they soldier on, and said they have new tunes for the next year. I hope so, as this flawless, female vocal driven psychedelic gem is an absolute masterpiece from start to finish.
5. Double Dagger – 333: This was my big score for Record Store Day (along with the A Place to Bury Strangers release), the first I ever participated in. I saw Double Dagger back in 2010, and they lasted a little while longer. They do the post-punk thing with their vocal , bass, and drums attack. This final release shows that they still had plenty of tricks up their sleeve, and the members are all still making music in the Baltimore scene (Roomrunner, Pure Junk, Peals).
6. Raindeer – Tattoo: Friends Records number four for this list. Tattoo is full of synth and guitar based jams. This band was really fun watching live, and I was able to see them a couple of time in 2013.
7. Scott Russell – A Guide to Rational Living Volume One: Noise rock from Friend Collector drummer Scott Russell. This release features riffs for days, and shows Scott as being as comfortable being a frontman as he is behind the skins.
8. ABDU ALI – Push+Slay: I am not sure if this is considered a mixtape, or an album; either way this release slays. Abdu Ali has a very confrontational style of lyricism and the earnestness of his music shines in his vocal performances. The beat selection is impeccable, with fellow Baltimore resident Schwarz (among others) dropping some real bangers.
9. Dungeonesse – Dungeonesse: Jon from the Art Department/White Life and Jenn from Wye Oak/Flock of Dimes team up for this pop/R&B release. Sing along choruses, memorable hooks, Jon’s production sheen, and Jenn’s vocals made this one I was revisiting several time this year.
10. The Snails – Worth The Wait: The final release on this list is also the fifth Friends Records one (man I love that label). This Baltimore super group dons snail outfits and features members of Future Islands and other groups, listed on Bandcamp as “the current cast of snails: Snail Braham, Snailburne, Sammy Snail, Snailliam, and Sandy Snailbelow”. They also made one hell of an EP, one that reminds me of beaches, waves rolling in, while sipping a piña colada.
cover image of Rommrunner taken by me at Hampdenfest 2013