Saturday, April 21, 2012

Record Store Day 2012.

(Arriving at the Electric Fetus. 6:45 a.m. April 21st, 2012)

Once again we have arrived at the holiest day on my personal calendar: Record Store Day. As always for the most pious devotees of the faith, this day is somewhat of a trial by fire. Or rather, given my particular habitat, a trial by clammy, 40 degree chillyness. Keeping to the true faith requires sacrifice. Lost sleep; tedious extended meditations in the brisk early morning air... "Why am I here?"; "What does it all mean?"; "Is there really any meaning to it all?"; "Is it really all worth it?"; "Why am I not in bed?"

Once again this year, despite all of my doubts and fears, I have found that clinging to the purer faith has yielded great fruit. And I am better for my perseverance. Here then is a brief chronicle of my personal journey on this, the highest of music geek holidays...

6:00 a.m. - Scrape myself out of bed. Shower. Shove cold pizza down my waking gullet.

6:45 a.m. - I arrive at the Electric Fetus to find that the line has already extended around the corner off of 4th avenue onto Franklin. I begin to curse the Record Store Day Gods; somehow I arrived half an hour earlier than last year, but find myself twice as far back in line. This can't be good. Perhaps next year I'll have to bag it. Much internal fuming commences as I put my earbuds in and try to kill the time with the Mighty Boosh.

7:30 - The Dunn Bros. people have come by with coffee and pastries. Truly they are saints in the Record Store Day canon.

8:10 a.m. - The line suddenly and unexpectedly begins to move. I soon find myself on the 4th avenue side wondering how I got here. Did they somehow decide out of some sense of mercy to open early?

8:15 a.m. - A Fetus minion arrives handing out numbers for entry into the exclusive, limited edition vinyl corner. Apparently the reason for the line movement was that many people ahead of me, having received their all important numbers, decided to bide their time in the relative warmth of their cars, secure in the knowledge that their numbers will grant them appropriate chronological access once the store opens at 9 a.m. Meanwhile, my number turns out to be 68, considerably better than I had expected given my original position around the corner. In addition, while it has had no change whatsoever on my fate, the fact that the line movement has moved me to the front side of the building has had a remarkably positive effect on my mood. Between that and my unexpectedly low number, I find my spirits buoyed and renewed.

8:30 a.m. - The Dunn Bros. coffee man is back, bless his soul. Note to self: Pocket cups.

8:35 a.m. - Two Fetus minions come by asking if we have any questions. I ask how many copies they have of the #1 title on my list. I am informed that they "only had like three copies, and one of them was given to a radio promo winner". I tell them that radio promo winners can suck it. Spirits newly diminished, but not crushed. I remain faithful that much of my wish list will be available.

8:40 a.m. - Two spots ahead of me in line, a young man in a Misfits shirt whose stated goal is to get the exclusive Misfits and The Refused rekkids approaches his leather-clad female companion, and grasping both her hand in his says, "I really want to see 'The Cabin in the Woods' with you" in a manner which suggests that this is the highest romantic proposal he could possibly make. Ahhh... young geek love.

8:45 - The two uber-geek hipster girls in front of me have been sharing an mp3 player by splitting one set of earbuds. I have already stowed away my iPod. If I have to hear this girl say "This is my jam!" one more time, I may have to kill everybody in line.

9:00 a.m. - The Electric Fetus finally opens its hallowed doors and lets the rabble in. Thus begins the warm, yet claustrophobic indoor portion of the Record Store Day waiting game. Oh well, might as well do some CD shopping while I'm waiting.

9:15 a.m. - I can't go into details here. The who, why, and how of it must remain as secret as possible. In fact, just mentioning this here could be problematic. Let me put it this way... I got the hook-up. It's going to be a very good Record Store Day.

10:10 a.m. - My number is finally up, and I am invited into the exclusive region to select my 10 items. Somehow nearly everything on my wish list is still here (a Record Store Day miracle!), however, sticker shock sets in when I see the price tags on several items. I choose to ignore it and push through the pain. It's Record Store Day; the holiest day on the calendar. Let's just call this "tithing".

Electric Fetus RSD scores:

Lee "Scratch" Perry/ the Upsetters - "Blackboard Jungle Dub" (3x10'' box set on red, gold, and green vinyl)

The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends (2xLP with custom covers on colored vinyl)

T. Rex - "Electric Warrior" (6x7" box set)

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band "Diddy Wah Diddy" (2x7")

Arctic Monkeys "R U Mine" (7" on purple vinyl)

The Black Keys "El Camino" (2x12" 45 with bonus 7" & CD, numbered edition: 2099 of 6000)

The White Stripes "Hand Springs" (7" on colored vinyl)

Paul Weller "That Dangerous Age" (7" on red vinyl)

St. Vincent "Krokodil" (7" on red vinyl)

Mike Watt & the Missingmen/ The Chuck Dukowski Sextet (Split 7")

10:30 a.m. - Call the mrs for a ride, head to the Electric Fetus parking lot to get a "Natedog" with caramelized onions and Surly Furious mustard.

10:45 a.m. - My chariot arrives (chariot... bag lady car? It's a thin line). Time to go home and return the Dunn Bros. gifts to the Mississippi.

11:45 a.m. - Time to head out to Hymie's Vintage Records' block party and survey the scene.

Noon - Arrive in the drizzle to find Hymie's hopping despite the weather. Live music outside in the street and inside the store. The move and subsequent revitalization of Hymie's is a great boon to the neighborhood and the city. Shopping the narrow and crowded aisles, I find myself faced with my usual Hymie's conundrum: Every time I go to Hymie's I set myself a spending limit; every time I end up spending nearly double that amount. Oh well. Once again, let's call it "tithing".

12:30 p.m. - Checking out at Hymie's I am once again astounded at one of the owner's frightening ability to manually enter prices into a cash-register at a pace that would make a hummingbird say, "damn, that's fast!" She is clearly a blessed saint of Record Store Day.

12:32 p.m. - I've spent too damned much money, but I couldn't be happier with the situation. The rain's become a bit much. Time to let the mrs have a go in the bouncy castle in the Ace parking lot, then it's home again home again to bask in the majestic presence of the holy spoils of Record Store Day.

Hymie's Vintage Records scores:

Peter Tosh "Legalize It" (10" picture disc with remixes)

Afrika Bambaataa/ MC5 "Kick Out the Jams" (split 7" on colored vinyl)

Joe Jackson "Look Sharp" (2x10" 45)

Elvis Costello "Veronica" (7")

Grace Jones "Fame" (LP)

Grace Jones "Slave to the Rhythm" (12" single)

Los Lobos "And a Time to Dance..." (LP)

Modern English "Ricochet Days" (LP)

Radio 4 "The New Song and Dance" (LP)

Patti Smith Group "Radio Ethiopia" (LP - one of my favorite rekkids EVER)

All told; a fabulous holiday. Kinda like xmas, but you buy your own presents.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


The first magnificent release of Spring 2012 is Amadou & Mariam's Folila. The presence of a massive cast of guests (Tunde Adebimpe & Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio, Jake Shears, Theophilus London, etc.) on this rekkid end up only being the frosting on a fabulously produced and realized gem from one of West Africa's legendary acts. Amadou & Mariam are on top form here, with or without Western celebrity guests. Not to diminish the guest appearances, but this is fantastic all around. Easily a fixture on my 2012 best of...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

First Quarter Best of 2012

The year is young, and while the harvest of great music thus far is not quite so bountiful as the first three months, there have been a number of standout releases that have wormed their way into my psyche. Here is a quick look at my fav'rits, as well a few remarkable 2011 releases which I discovered too late for them to make my year end list.

1. Mark Lanegan Band Blues Funeral (4AD)

I gushed unabashedly and at length about this rekkid in my last post, so I'll say no more about it here except that it is holding its position nicely as my frontrunner for rekkid of the year,

2, Sharon Van Etten Tramp (Jagjaguwar)

One of my people at the Electric Fetus pitched this rekkid to me as a "sort of Patti meets PJ thing". While  both of those influences are definitely present, there is also a heavy dose of ethereal indie folk/Americana  a la Cat Power, Wye Oak and the National (the last two being no coincidence, as the National's Aaron Dessner produced and plays on the album, and Wye Oak's Jenn Wassner sings on "Serpents"). Reminiscent of Feist's Metals in its compelling and deceptively simple use of space and dynamics. I keep finding new things to love every time I listen.

3. Lee Ranaldo Between the Times and the Tides (Matador)

A superb solo outing from Sonic Youth's "other guitarist/somgwriter". Ranaldo has always been a bit like George Harrison to Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon's Lennon-McCartney; he only gets a few songs per album, but they always stand out. Between the Time and the Tides is a bit more accessible than a Sonic Youth rekkid, but with Nels Cline joining Ranaldo, it is a guitar festival nonetheless. Songs filled with time, memory and longing which leave me pining for those days spent drinking bad beer in the sun with my roommates on the back steps of a Riverside Park duplex.

4. Rocket Juice & the Moon s/t (Honest Jon's)

Here's the pedigree: Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz, the Good the Bad and the Queen, etc.) on Keyboards, Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) on bass, Tony Allen (Fela Kuti, afro-beat pioneering god) on drums. Any questions? Throw in guest appearances by Erykah Badu, Fatou Diawara, the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and more, and you get an improvisational afro-beat party and everyone is invited.

5. Paul Weller Sonik Kicks (Yep Roc)

The third installment in the Modfather's cycle of art-rock rekkids that began with 2005's 22 Dreams and continued with 2008's Wake Up the Nation, Sonik Kicks continue the anything goes tradition of its predecessors, moving easily between m.o.r. Brit-pop, mod-ish rhythm and blues, dub, psych, whatever Weller feels like. The Modfather does what the Modfather wants, dammit. Another great rekkid from a British icon who is sadly all too overlooked in the colonies.

6. First Aid Kit The Lion's Roar (Wichita)

I first tumbled on these two hippie-riffic sisters when they opened for Lykke Li last year at First Avenue. I was quite impressed with their Mama's sans Papa's vibe. Apparently I wasn't the only one so impressed, as the title track and their shout-out to the great country couples "Emmylou" have become ubiquitous on local alternative public radio. Leave it to a pair of Swedish sisters to create the best alt-country album since Neko Case's Middle Cyclone.

7. Barry Adamson I Will Set You Free (Central Control)

Is there anyone cooler on the planet than Bazza? It's possible I suppose. His latest is more pop-song than menacing grumble, but is still a high quality rekkid. See the above video for evidence of the man's sheer unbridled hipness, and enjoy the track that sounds like my long-awaited sequel to Iggy's "Run Like a Villain".

8. Bombay Bicycle Club A Different Kind of Fix (A&M)

A delightful salvo from these adventurous indie Brits. Begins with the big, swelling psychedelia of "How Can You Swallow so Much Sleep" and ends with the best, brooding song that Radiohead never wrote "Still", and hits nearly every modern British indie touchstone in between.

9. Kaiser Chiefs Start the Revolution without Me (Fiction)

Leeds' practitioners in the Brit-pop firm of Madness, Blur, and XTC put songs online and polled their fans as to their faves. The Result is the band's best rekkid since their debut.

10. Pond Beard, Wives, Denim (Modular)

I actually do not yet own a copy of this rekkid (a situation which shall be remedied at my earliest convenience), which is why it is at the bottom of this list. It may well move up in time. A like-minded co-worker has been playing it in the office lately and we're both smitten. A heaping helping of acid rawk from two of the kids in Tame Impala and some of their Western Australia cohorts. Good on ya, mates!

Five rekkids that could have cracked my Best of 2011 list had I heard them in time:

1. Unknown Mortal Orchestra s/t (Fat Possum)

This colossal chunk of psychedelia would have made my top five. Delicious Zappa-esque nasal guitar lines and crazy Beefheartian rhythms and structures combine with production that recalls Lee "Scratch" Perry's transmission-from-outer-space Super Ape-era sound. Fan-freakin'-tastic!

2. Lulu Gainsbourg From Gainsbourg to Lulu (Fontana)

Tribute albums are usually hit-and-miss affairs, rarely sustaining any level of quality throughout. Not so this project from the mighty Serge's son Lucien Gainsbourg, Jr. aka Lulu. A magnificently consistent collection of covers of late 20th century France's greatest poet/provacateur/dirty old man's songs, highlighted by Marianne Faithful on "Manon", Lulu and Scarlett Johansson on "Bonnie and Clyde", Rufus Wainwright on "Je Suis Venu Te Dire que Je m'en Vais", Vanessa Paradis and Johnny Depp on "Ballade de Melody Nelson". Iggy Pop on "Initials BB", and much more. Delicieux!

3. Anna Calvi s/t (Domino)

Patti meets Siouxsie with fantastic electro-reverb flamenco-Morricone guitar chops. A fabulous listen which gets more fabulous with each successive listen.

4. Boom Bip Zig Zaj (Lex)

I am on record as not being a huge techno/electronica fan, but there are certain artists that lure me into that section of the rekkid store on a regular basis. Boom Bip is one such artist, and Zig Zaj is one of the most fabulous rekkids I've yet heard from the electronic camp. Aided by guest spots from Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos, Cate LeBon, and Money Mark, this is one of the best rekkids I never heard in 2011.

5. tUnE-yArDs Whokill (4AD)

Another co-worker of mine kept insisting that this was a great rekkid. I listened to part of it on Spotify on crappy laptop speakers and went "Meh". Then I saw them on Kimmel and understood. tUnE-yArDs' mastermind Merrill Garbus is rapidly becoming her generation's David Byrne.