Matt Ashare

  • Ric Ocasek

    I’ve always had a soft spot for RIC OCASEK, the founder and lead singer of the Cars. Actually, two. The first came in the early ’80s from hearing their classics blasting from car stereos and boom boxes when I was a high school misfit. In those days, the ironic detachment of “Good Times Roll,” “Moving In Stereo,” and especially “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” made being an awkward teenager seem defiantly cool, even a little dangerous. Those tunes also offered a bridge to anyone willing to cross from meat-and-potatoes rock ‘n’ roll radio to the forbidden realm of punk and new wave.

    The other soft

  • Helium

    On “Magic Box,” HELIUM’s third single, singer/guitarist Mary Timony introduced us to an enchanted space under her bed where she kept “trees, a river, and an old man’s head.” Intoxicatingly creepy, her sinister-sweet Heavenly Creatures voice was unsettling yet inviting, more like Blue Velvet than Halloween. Hints of her witchy-woman persona surfaced on subsequent releases (1994’s Pirate Prude EP and ’95’s The Dirt of Luck), even as she moved from casting spells to deconstructing her own psyche and songs.

    Thankfully, with The Magic City, Timony has climbed back under that bed, opened her black bag

  • The Geraldine Fibbers

    Partway through Butch, The Geraldine Fibbers’ second album, violinist Jessy Greene starts playing fiddle and the band shifts into classic country as husky-voiced frontwoman Carla Bozulich croons wearily “I'm going back to the place where folks like me are from.” Her cavernous voice, etched by rivers of regret and storms of sorrow yet never entirely bleak or humorless, has a prickly punk edge that tells you this isn’t the music of god’s country.

    Bozulich comes from the seedy underbelly of the LA rock scene, emerging as the sex-demon frontwoman of the now-defunct techno group Ethyl Meatplow back

  • Elliott Smith

    A beaten poet with a gentle, nicotine-stained rasp of a voice, the keen eye of a gifted storyteller, and a deeply romantic spirit, Elliott Smith fits the textbook description of the finger-picking folk hero and has come to play that role in the indie-rock circles he travels. But Smith’s music is equally indebted to the moody blues of Ray Davies’ “Waterloo Sunset” and Big Star’s Third. Even the roughest, home-recorded cuts on Either/or are buoyed by the loose patter of drums and harmonies that betray a McCartneyesque sense of melody, reminiscent at times of Tim Buckley or Nick Drake. On last

  • Run On

    Rock ’n’ roll has never been particularly kind about the aging process. Just ask Roger Daltrey, who’s still around to curse Pete Townshend for making him sing that “hope I die before I get old” line thirty years ago. Or check out Lou Reed in leather pants and ask yourself if there’s any dignity in that. Thirty-something Sue Garner of NYC’s RUN ON sings in a wizened, unaffected voice that seems comfortably primed for those pitfalls. It’s a voice that acknowledges time past without denying the present, refusing the future, or trying to re-create past glories.

    In a way, Garner has no choice: none