Aaron Lovely is vocalist and guitarist for Maine's Falls of Rauros, who incidentally have released one of the best and most memorable metal records this year, The Light that Dwells in Rotten Wood (which you can get from Bindrune Recordings). Honestly, one of the best bands on the planet, bar none.
music I've been listening to somewhat frequently the past months:
Manilla Road - Playground of the Damned
I've actually only heard the leak of this but Shadow Kingdom Records is so damned slow they give me no choice. It's classic heavy metal as good as can be done in 2011. It's also perfectly murky sounding, per usual. Manilla Road.
Midlake - The Courage of Others
Can't seem to stop listening to the first track off this one, but the entire thing is quality. Woodsy, pop-like in structure but mostly just beautiful folk-rock.
Simon Joyner - Hotel Lives
I mention "Hotel Lives" simply because it's what I consider the best starting place when approaching Simon Joyner. All that I've heard from him is pretty essential if you like the singer-songwriter thing. It's lonely and harrowing folk almost like Velvet Underground being channeled through Leonard Cohen or even Bob Dylan. Lots of darkness here.
Songs: Ohia is always getting frequent listens. I put him on this list because it needed to be done. This is also by far the most difficult here to narrow down to a single record. For a starting place I suppose I'd suggest "The Lioness." Jason Molina has written many of what I consider to be the most stark, afflicted songs of the last couple decades. All of his material should be sought out; I really can't recommend his music enough.
Vordr - II
Band rules. Black Metal done right and more. A perfect example of how to utilize the traditional elements Black Metal and end up with a potent and original outcome.
Mariee Sioux - Faces in the Rocks
One night she was supposed to play in Portland, ME. Upon showing up to the venue we discovered she had personal matters to attend to and would not be playing for us. I don't think anybody has recovered yet from that grim night.
The Gates of Slumber - The Wretch
This album is more traditional doom/heavy metal than their last couple, which were fantastic in their own right. Everybody should like this band. If it's too plodding for your taste then give "Hymns of Blood and Thunder" or "Conqueror" a shot and then return to "The Wretch" in due time.
One of Delta Blues' founding fathers! His music is best experienced alone, at night.
Cult of Daath - Doomed By the Witch
This one is just an EP, or demo maybe? Cult of Daath have consistently topped themselves with every recording. This EP shows them expanding the scope of their songs while retaining every bit of underground attitude, personality, and sound. Fucking awesome.
Atlantean Kodex - The Golden Bough
More great traditional heavy metal, only with a more epic power metal feel. Peers should take note: heavy metal sounds best unpolished! It's rare that you get fully enveloped in the atmospheric qualities of a heavy/power metal record and we need to see more of this happening. Simple ideas can work so well.
Other quality listenings:
Vic Chesnutt - North Star Deserter
Mike Marshall & Darol Anger with Väsen
Dystopia - The Aftermath
Aura Noir - Hades Rise
Sharon Van Etten - Epic
Thanksgiving - Welcome Nowhere
Michael Hurley - Long Journey
Prevalent Resistance - Eternal Return
Roscoe Holcomb - The High Lonesome Sound
A few enjoyable books:
Richard Brautigan - In Watermelon Sugar
Frank Herbert - Dune
Gary Snyder - The Practice of the Wild
H.D. Thoreau - The Maine Woods
Daniel Quinn - Ishmael
Charles Bukowski - You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense
John Zerzan - Origins
J.R.R. Tolkien - who?
Some inspiring places I've recently visited:
Old Speck Mountain - Grafton Notch State Park, ME
One of the very best places you can be in Maine. An absolutely beautiful mountain with an isolated campsite on the far side. The camp is right on Speck Pond, the highest elevated pond in Maine. At the summit of Old Speck there's a small fire tower to climb; very worth doing for a clear view of the surrounding mountains. Be sure to stop at Sunday River Brewing Co. on the way home.
Baldpate Mountain - Grafton Notch State Park, ME
The trail to the lean-to and both the West and East summits begins right across the road from the Old Speck trailhead. A great climb with two peaks to ascend. There's an enormous rock face (no equipment necessary) to climb which is certainly one of the highlights. Bring a carrot as you may encounter very large rabbits at one point or another. Also, a .5 mile side trail up to the Table Rock is optional, but not really. It must be done. A startling view from there. Again, be sure to stop at Sunday River Brewing to ease back into civilization.
South Branch Pond, Baxter State Park, ME
Baxter State Park is a mandatory place to visit. Nothing really compares to Mount Katahdin in all the Appalachians. It's a breathtaking mountain, and unique. It can't really be described here so I won't attempt to. The South Branch Pond campsite is pretty deep in the park; quite a drive but worth the trip. Two ponds connected by a small portage make for many hours of canoeing/kayaking/swimming and there are a few small trails around the camp too if you're looking to kill a couple hours. If you're not going to stay at this camp in Baxter then check out the Nesowadnehunk sites. Amazing.
Round Pond, North Woods, ME
Round Pond is in the Northern terminus of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, and it's quite the place. The campsites on the Allagash are pretty lavish. Most, I believe, are complete with a picnic table and the structure to easily set up a tarp over it. There's also a 5-mile round-trip trail that leads to a very tall fire tower. It's closed as of now, but still able to be climbed. Do it! The trail begins from a campsite somewhere on the Eastern shore.
Allagash Falls, North Woods, ME
By this point you're almost in Canada. The Allagash soon joins with the St. John River. The campsite here is wonderful; you can hear the falls and the surrounding rapids through the night, and if it's clear after dark the sky looks something like a planetarium. There's a portage past the falls which isn't awful but be prepared for some pain the next day. It's also completely essential that you swim the rapids immediately following the waterfall, as well as check out the few great rock jumps in the area. The water is deep so you can jump from wherever, just be wary of the scattered rocks you're barreling towards.