Welcome back to From the Vinyl Vault where each week, Frankie and Michael talk about a select record from their massive vinyl collections! We are excited because starting today our column will now be running in a new time slot on Friday afternoons!
Frankie - Wicca Phase Springs Eternal: Suffer On (2019)
I recently got my hands on one of the strangest albums I’ve ever heard and I need to share it with everyone. Wicca Phase Springs Eternal is the eerie moniker of Adam McIlwee, previously of one of my favorite emo bands Tigers Jaw. McIlwee amicably left Tigers Jaw in 2013 to submerge himself in the world of Internet hip-hop and other spookier corners of the Internet. What emerged was his distinct emo hip-hop sound that is absolutely not for all listeners but I found myself naturally drawn to. McIlwee is also partially responsible for the formation of a collective called “Gothboiclique” comprised of similar minded musicians including the late Lil Peep.
Suffer On is the sophomore album McIlwee has put out as Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, released this past February. The album is primarily comprised of McIlwee’s baritone vocals, often spoken rhythmically rather than sang, along with acoustic guitar riffs reminiscent of things he was generating for Tigers Jaw. The trap like beats are mostly conjured up by fellow Gothboiclique member Døves and the artwork for the cover of the album and much of the merch is designed by long time friend and Tigers Jaw member Brianna Collins. “Rest” and “I Need Help” are two of my favorite songs from the album. “Rest” begins with a guitar melody that sounds like it just as easily be the beginning of a b-track from the Tigers Jaw self-titled album, and I think it was the first song that drew me in. the end of the song deposits the sweetest ear-worm: an actual reference to a Tigers Jaw song “Slow Come On” from the album “Charmer” which he left during the recording of in 2013. “I Need Help” is one of the most raw songs on the album, I especially connect with the lyrics from the second verse: “this is a crisis/ you choose not to see it/ I went away ‘cause away’s what I needed/ This is not treason but sometimes it feels it/ Sometimes you lie and you lie for no reason/ I'd say you'd stay but can't honestly mean it/ I am in pain and I keep it a secret/ Hard times, baby, I need help.”
I fully understand that this artist’s distinct style and sound are not for everyone. I don’t think I was even necessarily convinced on my first listen through, but it has grown on me in a way that I never thought it would. It’s an interesting meshing of two genres I thought would never mix well but they do in a unique way. Wicca Phase Springs Eternal is signed through Run For Cover Records, where you can buy both albums as well as several other merch items, but you can also find the album for sale on the artists Bandcamp and his website as well. The only pressing still available, and the one I own, is pressed on half clear, half translucent purple vinyl, limited to 700.
Michael - Elliott Smith: Either/Or (1997)
Get ready people, this is going to be an interesting one. Few artists are able to tap into depression and isolation like Portland-based icon Elliott Smith was able to. His music at times has to be taken in doses, it can be that harrowing and impactful. As someone who has battled depression and mental health issues their entire life, there are few artists that understand it like Smith did. And for all of the advice from therapists and counselors about reframing issues and attempts to manage your internal dialogue, there are times I don't have the energy to get there. What's more, there are times I just need to sit in it, music like Smith's helps in these circumstances because it can show in a world where no one understands you or what you're going through there is a voice who does. And all the more, he made fantastic music. Unfortunately, he was taken from us far too young from suicide, and it's a loss that the world still grips with today.
Wow, that was a lot. If you're still with me, Either/Or was what some see as Smith's pinnacle as far as musical output is concerned. Either/Or has Smith's most well known song "Between the Bars" on it. "Between the Bars" straddles the line of a tale about utilizing alcohol to deal with the rigors of everyday life (something Smith personally dealt with and many like him do) and a heartbroken love song. It's worth noting the album is not all doom and gloom, "Pictures of Me" is upbeat and a great track. Another impactful track from Either/Or is "Angeles". With it's understated guitars and Smith's signature vocals, "Angeles" is another track that listeners cite as inspirational from the album.
Speaking of inspiration, I can't believe I've gone all this time and haven't talked about Smith's legacy. While Smith himself was influenced by legends such as Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and The Clash. His influence can still be heard in the alt music of today. Musicians such as Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses and Steve Holmes of American Football have specifically and frequently cited Smith as an influence. However, you have to look no further than an acoustic styled alt playlist on Spotify and you can hear the echoes of Smith's finger-picking style, the delicate hush of his vocals, and the sensibility of his lyrics in the music of today. If you haven't had a chance to dig into Elliott Smith, I would highly encourage you to do so, you won't be disappointed. Either/Or isn't a bad place to start.