Santa Barbara, California’s Glen Phillips is probably best known for his work with 90s alt-rockers Toad The Wet Sprocket, whom he formed when he was a mere 15 years old. After a six-album career with TTWS—peppered with mainstream radio hits—the band called it a day in 1998. Since then, Glen has been a prolific solo artist, with no fewer than five records and two Eps to his name available on his Nimbit profile. He’s also collaborated on three other projects: the Mutual Admiration Society, Works Progress Administration, and RemoteTreeChildren.
Toad has enjoyed sporadic reunions and tours since 2006, and Glen has concurrently managed to maintain creative output for both the band and his solo material—atop the aforementioned collaborations. The man stays busy!
Sonically, Phillips’ solo work is quite diverse, including the folky/spacy terraforming concept album Secrets of the New Explorers, the spooky stomp and rootsy snarl of Unlucky 7. Toad fans will find a lot to like here while exploring some new sonic territory—but will have Glen’s familiar voice to guide them along. Dig in, and get a t-shirt while you’re at it. There’s six to choose from.
That was twenty years ago, and Dana’s still belting it out. For other artists this could be where the story ends, or at least gets boring. She could be just another songbird with a dream who flew the coop for the Big City, only to be lost in the shuffle.
No. Not this one. Dana’s the rare sort of artist with absolute mastery of her gift. Not only does her voice simply do whatever she wants—but if you’re fortunate enough to be within earshot, you’re going to feel whatever she wants you to.
And it can turn on a dime, too. Dana will be cooking up a batch of heartache one second, and then serve up unbridled joy the next. The sonic equivalent of a Leatherman. I didn’t know a voice could look right through me until I heard hers.
The producer of an off-Broadway production of Janis heard it, too. You can probably guess what that show is about, and what happened next. Janis was a hit, Dana was a hit-within-the-hit, and segued from her off-Broadway show to more shows even farther off-Broadway, and she brought a hell of a rock band with her.
Fast forward hundreds of shows and five albums. The latest from said eponymous band, Songs from the Road, is a live affair recorded (and shot, DVDs available now!) The Highland Ballroom that is an ideal snapshot of not just Dana—but also the band at their collective peak. Featuring Dana’s longtime collaborator Jon Diamond, the band is incredibly tight, providing exactly the sort of anchor that a wild voice needs.
Dana and company’s Nimbit store offers a wide array of great stuff: CDs, downloads, and DVDs of Songs from the Road, t-shirts, autographed 8x10s, and four full-length recordings from Dana’s back-catalog—available autographed or vanilla. Buy how you want: most recordings here are available both as digital download and compact discs, and there’s even a CD/DVD/T-shirt combo pack, appropriately discounted for the completest on a budget.
The Dead Milkmen
The Dead Milkmen are most widely-known to the public through the success of their 80s hits “Bitchin’ Camaro,” and “Punk Rock Girl,” the latter of which features my all-time favorite guitar solo. The Philly foursome’s brand of punk rock is instantly recognizable and completely inimitable, and evocative of a very particular brand of smart-ass. Think back to high school, and you can picture the guy I mean. He sat in the back of the class, needed a haircut, got a B+ in English but barely passed algebra or physics. This is his soundtrack.
He could have gone somewhere if he’d really applied himself. Or he could have joined The Dead Milkmen. They’re essentially a humble bedroom four-tracker project gone horribly correct, with DIY recordings dating back to 1979—though they didn’t form as a “proper” band until 1981. Their 1985 debut, Big Lizard in my Backyard, eschews the templated, humorless hardcore that was climbing the punk-popularity ladder on the east coast at the time of the band’s formation. Where Minor Threat hit like a neutron bomb, The Dead Milkmen chose to hit more like a pie in the face. 30 years and ten albums later, the decision to err on the funny side of life continues to make TDM’s catalog stand apart. Heavy on polka-pogo rhythms, jangly guitars, and enough non-sequitur lyrical snark to fill about 17 bathtubs. Add a dose of surprisingly pretty surf guitar from time to time, and you still probably won’t get the idea. Just listen.
The Dead Milkmen’s Nimbit Store boasts two full-length albums, The King in Yellow (their first release in 16 years at the time of release) and their latest, Pretty Music for Pretty People, as well as a handful of 7-inch compilations, available as digital downloads or good ol’ vinyl—”in a desperate ploy to appeal to the still stubborn vinyl fetishist,” their profile admits with a knowing sneer.