Ape School is Florida native Michael Johnson, a one-man indie-rock band of sorts, who recently snagged musicians to help take his show on the road. Johnson has worked with the likes of Holopaw (of which he is a former member), Human Television, Kurt Vile, Lilys and Daedelus. In fact, Johnson sang and played a variety of instruments on Daedelus'' Love to Make Music To 2008 album. It was during that time, when Johnson was working with Daedelus, that he began composing for his own opus, Ape School (Counter, 2009). Ape School is technically Johnson''s sophomore release (his debut, Nonsense Goes Mudslide, came out in 2004), but it''s his first album using the Ape School moniker.
Remix hit Johnson up for his list of top-10 favorite songs of all time. Man, these lists just keep getting weirder and weirder—and we love it.
Soft Machine, all of side 1 from the album Volume 2 (Probe, 1969)
It's basically one long song, so I suppose it fits the criteria. Brilliant work by a bunch of then-youngsters. Repeating motifs and insane harmonies (“Thank you Jim / for ooooour exposure to the crooooowd”). I loved it 10 years ago, and it still gives me shivers at certain times. Add to that the most awesome fuzz bass I can think of, and I'm permanently stuck on this.
David Bowie, “Sound and Vision” (RCA, 1977)
The apex of bizarro pop experimentation circa 1977 filtered through an optimistic lens. Something very seedy and weird going on beneath the surface of this one. Walky-talky bass lines, icy synths warbling all over the stereo field and of course, that infamous snare sound. I find myself singing this quietly on strolls to nowhere.
Labi Siffre, “Entertainment Value” (Pye, 1973)
Best goat vocals of all time. Alternately sweet and searing hot licks. Horn explosion. Wacked-out synth outro. Everybody knows the song that Dre sampled, but Siffre has some serious jams outside of that. Thanks to Mr. D'addario's Mixtape blog a few years ago, I'm no stranger.
Scott Walker, “Montague Terrace (In Blue)” (Philips, 1967)
Each word enunciated so deliberately always brings my attention to "His bloated belching figure stomps / He may crash through the ceiling sooooon." I never got why people talked Scott Walker up so much until I finally heard this song in the right mindset. When the orchestra kicks in, I literally get goose bumps every time. Reverb from heaven and hell, simultaneously. Brilliant.
Todd Rundgren, “Zen Archer” (Bearsville, 1973)
I hated Rundgren when my college roommate got obsessed. Eventually I realized between Gentle Giant and Rundgren, I'd go with the lesser of the two evils. Then this record hooked me. "International Feel" is a banger to start the record, but I eventually got completely obsessed with "Zen Archer." It's a weirdo one-man-in-a-studio semi-rock jam. Falsetto self-harmonizing. Expansive organ orchestra faking. Cruddy tom-heavy drumming. My blueprint, to an extent. I only hope I'm remotely as effective.
This Heat, “Paper Hats” (Rough Trade, 1981)
This was the weirdest thing I'd ever heard when I first heard it. I think I'd read a Tortoise interview where they mentioned This Heat and King Tubby. I bought both. This song scared the crap out of me. Wailing demented banshee vocals morph into Gregorian satanics. Absolute chaos becomes endless repetition. Bitter, bitter lyrics. Again, something that is eternally stuck in my creative subconscious.
Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, “Heavy Head” (Ajax, 1995)
I didn't know much about these guys when I saw them open for Polvo on Jax Beach in Florida in '96. Most of my friends stayed out in the parking lot. They busted this song out with a distorted banjo and it shook me to my core. Though the recorded version doesn't have the same slamming power I remember from that show, it always reminds me of how affected I really was at that moment.
Spiritualized, “Lay Back in the Sun” (Dedicated, 1995)
I remember countless Gainesville days driving a ratty old Volvo around (RIP, Goatmobile) listening to this at full blast. This was the first time I realized psychedelicism wasn't reliant on poor fidelity, and could possibly even be better with attention to detail. The piano just clanging along on the same note like an old TV news ticker completely rules.
The Flaming Lips, “Felt Good to Burn” (Warner Bros., 1992)
My favorite Lips era, though most people I know like either the early fuzz noise or the later clean-cut versions. This one owns a special part of my heart due to time and place. Vivid memories of driving home from the beach still wigging out some New Year's long ago. The sine-wave bass rumble used to baffle me. What is that noise? Later I found out it had to be a synth of some sort. Obviously I ran with that one.
Jackpots, “Jack in the Box” from Rubble Volume 15 (Bam-Caruso, 1991)
I could pick any number of songs from the not-so-essential '80s compilation series. All British psych all the time for me from 1998 to 1999. This one stands out because it got me obsessed with reverse echoes on everything. Flip the reels, make the magic! I think all this stuff stuck in my brain a bit too much. Listen to every volume of the Rubble collection and you'll find where every single part of every song I've done since has been lifted from. Sometimes with intent, most often completely accidentally. It's that ingrained.