Category Archives: 30Hz Music

The 30Hz music-related ramblings

30Hz Record Store Day 2012 Haul

I may have spent one too many drinks celebrating the Penguins victory at Wingharts before heading off to Millvale for Attic Records midnight opening. By the time I arrived the line snaked the length of the block and around the corner. A great indicator of the success of Record Store Day 2012 and relative disappointment because I feared I was destined to miss out on some of the best releases. While I lost a few near the top of my wish list, this encouraged me to stumble into a few records I wouldn’t have normally picked up. Here’s my haul.

 

Animal Collective, Transverse Temporal Gyrus

Animal Collective

In 2010, Animal Collective and visual artist Danny Perez put on an installation called “Transverse Temporal Gyrus” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. The music on this 12″ is a mixture of the music recorded for the installation and live tracks recorded at the Guggenheim. It’s raw Animal Collective with broader creative liberties. RSD Exclusive.

 

Arcade Fire, Sprawl II / Ready to Start 12″

Arcade Fire Sprawl II

Remixes of two songs from The Suburbs. I’m not in love with the remix of “Ready to Start” because it feels like the original, just extended by some synth and beat, but the refashioned “Sprawl II” makes this one a keeper. RSD Exclusive. Here’s a video of the Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) remix. Just a great track.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehruYglx9LM[/tube]

 

Leonard Cohen, Live at Frederickton LP

Leonard Cohen

Live Leonard Cohen tracks are always a treat. Quite frankly I haven’t listened to this one yet because I’m sure it’s fantastic. I never promised cutting edge journalism here, folks.

 

Shabazz Palaces, Live at KEXP  12″

Shabazz Palaces Live at KEXP

Listened to all these tracks on KEXP. Shabazz is such a raw, innovative hip-hop act and these live recordings from KEXP distill their talent to the essentials. Highly recommended. RSD Exclusive. Video from the session. I’ve just been a huge fan of theirs since I first heard a stream of the record. And it just keeps getting better. They have a shot at becoming a Tribe Called Quest-type game-changer for the genre with a few more releases like their debut.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOvu0wGSBho[/tube]

 

Childish Gambino, Heartbeat 12″

Childish Gambino Heartbreak

A great Donald Glover/Childish Gambino track (my favorite on the album at least) with some solid remixes on the B-side on some sweet red vinyl. I am a goddamn sucker for colored vinyl.

 

Of Monsters and Men, Into the Woods EP 10″

Of Monsters and Men

I’m a pretty big fan of these Icelanders… so an exclusive RSD yellow vinyl with a previously unreleased track made it an easy grab. Even better that unreleased track, a down tempo bit of melancholy, doesn’t seem out of place. Fans of the band should find copy. And/or listen here to your heart’s content.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCD6BxlHarY&feature=player_embedded[/tube]

 

Bill Evans, Live At Art D’Lugoff’s Top Of The Gate 12″

Bill Evans

This was the #1 want at the top of my RSD shopping list. I was quite relieved to find perhaps the last copy at Attic Records. My favorite jazz pianist. The tracks on this album were recorded in Greenwich Village in 1968. They were just recently discovered, digitally remastered and pressed on 180-gram blue vinyl. The full recordings will be released in a 3LP box set later this year. I found a nice video about the show on the label’s website.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=innDU9rCf0Y&feature=player_embedded[/tube]

 

Foster the People, “Broken Jaw” / “Ruby” 7″ and Jukebox the Ghost, “I Love You Always Forever” 7″

Jukebox the Ghost and Foster the People 45s

If you like Foster there’s little to dislike, though the tracks both just feel like excised cuts from their full-length that were lacking in some fashion. To cover up the weaknesses, they threw some synth into the mix. It’s kind of a catch all, really. Fix and ailing song? Add synth. Need to remix a track for a b-side? Add synth. I like synth so it’s a good rule.

I’d forgotten about this 7″ Jukebox single until I stumbled across it at the checkout. These are the oddities that really make me love Record Store Day. I’m not kidding. Jukebox covers the saccharine Donna Lewis pop song smash “I Love You Always Forever” and they take enough initiative to make it their own without shoehorning indie angst into the mix, you know, to make it edgy. The biggest surprise wasn’t that I thoroughly and guiltlessly enjoyed the Donna Lewis cover but on the b-side, Jukebox also includes their inspired cover of New Order’s “Temptation.” The track had been released previously on a limited edition version of Let Live & Let Ghosts so it’s not a new find, but merely a very pleasant surprise.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hExfe9mSzTg[/tube]

 

Afrika Bambaataa/MC5, “Kick Out the Jams” 7″
Mastodon/Flaming Lips, “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton” 7″
Run DMC/Carolina Chocolate Drops, “You Be Illin'” 7″

Record Store Day: Three 45s

The Side by Side series of discs offer a coupling of covers. Some of them are new recordings, some old (as in the Afrika Bambaataa and MC5 disc). I was unable to snag a “Feistodon” (Feist covering Mastodon and Mastodon covering Feist), which was a bummer because it was really the only release of its kind. I was happy to find the southern fried cover of Run DMC’s “You Be Illin'” and impulse bought both the Mastodon/Flaming Lips (pink vinyl!) and the Afrika Bambaataa/MC5 (tie-died-looking vinyl!). And it would have been easy to give in to a few more of these.

 

The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde Singles Collection Box

Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde Singles Collection 45s

 

The Pharcyde on vinyl is crucial enough. Then add unreleased remixes. Colored vinyl. A poster. A CD of those unreleased tracks and a puzzle. Oh… and it does this:

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GP3n0GcnwuE[/tube]

The Twilight Sad @ the Empty Bottle, Chicago 3/2

The Twilight Sad @ the Empty Bottle, Chicago
March 2, 2012

The Empty Bottle bar

If I hadn’t been riding in a cab to the show I would have had to double check my directions. After arriving at the Empty Bottle in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village I couldn’t believe that a band like The Twilight Sad would venture from Kilsyth to Chicago to play in a corner dive bar. If I hadn’t seen the band’s bassist lingering around the swag table (which flanked a Ms. Pacman cabinet) I’d have called the whole operation into question. No punches pulled, the place is a dive, though a dive in the best possible sense – a local joint where you’d go to see your cousin’s band play a set of Ramones’ covers but only because of the $3 Shiner Bocks. The walls held together by thousands of staples, the wallpaper comprised of the impressive shards of posters documenting past acts.  Tattoo-sleeves on the bartender. Multi-colored Christmas bulbs dangled above the stage. Chiaroscuro spots at the side of the stage, that would in due time, obscure all of my attempts at in-concert photography.

Micah P. Hinson warmed up the early crowd with some standard-fare singer-songwriter angst, albeit wearing white Buddy Holly specs which at least provided a topic of conversation while my party warmed up the back end of the bar.

Young Prisms

The penultimate band, a Bay Area export by the name of Young Prisms, provided a pleasant smattering of Jesus and Mary Chain covers, which actually turned out to be their original material. The perfect opening act – familiar and unmemorable but with some potential to become an “I-saw-them-way-back-when” band. The curious footnote about the Young Prisms’ set, which proved to be a harbinger of things to come: we couldn’t tell if the supposed lead singer was actually singing. I changed my viewing angle of the stage so that the microphone wasn’t blocking the lead singer’s mouth. Yes, indeed, she’d been singing. News to us.

More about the venue. Imagine an L. Place the bar along the long upright and a two-tiered riser for concerts in the short end. The stage at the crux and a brick column flanked by doorways directly in front with room for about two dozen spectators between the stage and the column in a crowded mass. With Stella in hand I pushed near the front end of the bar in anticipation of the Twilight Sad. Though it wasn’t really anticipation per se since they were already on stage testing and honing levels without much fanfare. And then they paused. James Graham huddled over the microphone, wilting inside himself. A pause before synth and haunting distorted bass reverb commandeered the Empty Bottle. Graham’s body seethed with intensity as he brooded the opening of “Kill It in the Morning,” the concluding track on their latest No One Can Ever Know. No translation necessary. Not that deciphering his thick Scottish accent proves necessary to getting lost in the music or understanding Graham’s cryptic lyrics – but because it was almost like he wasn’t singing at all, despite the clear intent and focus on consuming the microphone. The swell of synth and percussion near the end of the song resonated with the largely idle crowd, causing the first head widespread lost-in-the-music head nods and air drumming. With the vocals drowned out by a wall of reverb, I relocated to the two-tier risers, figuring on improved sonic fidelity.

The Twilight Sad (not at the Empty Bottle)

“Don’t Move” followed but instead of reverb distorting their sound, percussion overshadowed the mix. Only when drummer Mark Devine launched the recognizable opening drum cadence for “That Summer, at Home I Became the Invisible Boy” did a song resemble an album recording. Graham belted the repeated chorus “Kids are on fire in the bedroom” clearly and intentionally, the minimal reverb finally allowing an aural connection to the singer but these connections seemed localized to songs from their prior albums. Fan favorite “Cold Days from the Birdhouse” and “Reflection on the Television” succeeded due to a more minimal, precise mix of vocals, drums and guitar. “Cold Days” in particular offered Graham’s voice a chance to come into focus. He lingered on particular passages, slowed the tempo, played with our expectations and highlighted a sadness in the song’s chorus that isn’t wholly apparent on the album version.

But this highlight came too late in the show, perhaps, to hook anyone unfamiliar with the bands catalog. Those already familiar with The Twilight Sad and their music would have reveled in the chance to witness Graham, in the way the prior music generation witnessed Ian Curtis’ localized intensity, his ability to command a two foot space on a stage and thereby an entire room. The orchestration sustaining his performance on stage, eyes closed, lost in the synth and reverb. Songs from the “No One Can Ever Know” album, as great as they are on the album, amplified too large for the space and drowned even Graham’s confident vocals. Poor Stephanie Hodapp of the Young Prisms’ never stood a chance.

Still trying to find that sweet spot, that spot that allowed each component of music to flourish, I nestled into the small crux of the “L” next to the brick column directly in front of the stage and located a semblance of fidelity just as “And She Would Darken the Memory,” a favorite track from Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, concluded. Even the accent-clouded lyrics of the chorus “And their friendly faces with put on smiles” emerged through the din with a measure of intelligibility. Sigh. Once the Twilight Sad left the stage after their curious closer, “At the Burnside” – a song noted for its notorious “wall of sound” comprised of wailing guitar, piano and percussion – I reported my finding to my party, now nursing their final drinks at the rear of the bar. They shrugged and we wandered out into the snowy Chicago evening. We caught a cab and I spent the entire time questioning what went wrong, my voice too loud for the silent cab. I began the process of turning down the volume on the synth and reverb still echoing in my head. I questioned the choice of venue and the sound engineers but never the band. Not even once. The performance was there and showcased brilliantly in fits and spurts. But in the end, I decided that maybe this venue, this corner dive, was precisely the place that the Twilight Sad could be precisely themselves, baring their damaged souls but still hiding among the reverb and causing everyone else to question, exactly, what it all means.

30Hz Recommended: the Jezabels, Great Lake Swimmers

So my wife and I just had our second daughter this past week. Awesome. Yes. But it also means that any posts I had in the works are going to be a little delayed… also my music reviews for www.spillmagazine.com… and really anything that requires even a moderate amount of focus. So this morning while I take a few hours at a coffee shop to catch up on email, twitter, send out some short story submissions, I’ll make my obligatory 30Hz Recommended post for new music Tuesday. I say obligatory because this past Tuesday brought us some absolutely fantastic albums that deserve your attention.

First up…

The Jezabels, Prisoner

Critics call the Sydney quartet’s music everything from alt-rock to disco-pop. The band refers to themselves, with a hint of self-deprecation, as “intensindie.” However classified, Hayley May brings some infectious swagger, a la  Pat Benatar, to her frontwoman style (particularly on the mid-tempo burner “Endless Summer” and “Long Highway”), and the band borrows a small slice of the Joy Formidable’s symphonic rock. They’re also not afraid to slow the pace to play, with plenty of confidence, some alt-rock power balladry. It might sound like a mishmash of uninhabitable musical genres and regrettable nostalgia but the whole thing comes together to create the best pure “driving record” of 2012. (Driving Record: an album without a clear pinch, containing varied song-styles with constant forward momentum. As in an album that can repeat on long drives without the immediate need to swap out upon conclusion. Previous “driving record” accolades belong to Sliversun Pickups and the aforementioned Joy Formidable). The band has been a relative to-do in Australia for a couple of years. (Pittsburgh folks need to get a ticket to their show with Imagine Dragons next week at Brillobox.) Here’s the band playing a fantastic version of “Hurt Me” at the Annandale Hotel, Sydney in 2009.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTf6zufJ1J0&feature=related[/tube]

 

Great Lake Swimmers, New Wild Everywhere

It’s time to jump in with the Great Lake Swimmers. Criminally underappreciated might begin to describe the lack of attention paid to this Canadian (oftentimes) quintet. I’m happy to see some buzz around this new release, but if it’s not on your mp3 player of choice, well, you need to fix that. The Great Lake Swimmers might be the flipside of the Jezabels. They won’t self deprecate and there’s nothing intense about anything they’ve ever done. Compare them favorably to the likes of Will Oldham and Iron & Wine. Earnest folk-rock made for being chill and contemplative. The title track from this new record might be the most raucous I’ve ever seen the Swimmers.  It’s hard for me to believe that they’ve been around long enough to have released five albums (5!). Have they ever made a bad track? I’m not sure I can think of one. Ideal listening conditions: sitting outside, beer in hand, basking in cool evening temperatures and a setting sun. Here is “Quiet Your Mind,” a standout track on this album, backed by an ample string section. Just listen and get lost in the beautiful orchestration. You never knew simple, straightforward folk music could have so much depth.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHK21cm_h1A&feature=fvsr[/tube]

Also new and noteworthy this week:

the first full length LP from Of Monsters and Men, My Head is an Animal

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Dw8qdmT_aY[/tube]

and Lotus Plaza, Spooky Action at a Distance a solo project from Lockett Pundt, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist from Deerhunter.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tv35im6ZG4M&feature=related[/tube]

 

 

“$5.00-Random”

Reason #278 to buy vinyl: Rescuing misplaced treasures from a vinyl purgatory

For any open-minded, intrepid collector and music enthusiast, Reason #278 might be the best reason of all to support vinyl. The earliest lateral-cut discs (the precursor to vinyl as we know it) had been produced nearly a century before compact discs stomped all over its turf like Godzilla over Tokyo; therefore, it’s no surprise that the breadth and variety of available music for the turntable knows no equal.

Wander any decent second-hand record store and you’ll be treated to unorthodox genres long since forgotten. At some point in our consumer past, sellers/distributors shoehorned all genres into a select few. Rock/Pop. Jazz. Country. Classical. Rap/Hip-Hop. Am I missing any? Shop vinyl and you’ll find genres like Hawaiian. Banjo. Soul. Rockabilly. I am always compelled to linger over these genres even though my knowledge of the artists contained within could be found lacking. I want to pick one at random, just to give it a listen. If nothing else, experiments like these provide great fodder for the bl-g. But the number of potential targets overwhelms and ultimately I move on to more familiar pastures. Next time I’ll come armed with a Google search and a list of obscure artists in obscure genres and do some exploration. After all, $2 per adventure seems pretty damn cheap these days.

I am much more comfortable making decisions at the intersection of the familiar and random. And it turns out that the best place to discover the intersection of familiar and random is at shops that are not just music purveyors. Half-Price Books, for example. While they have vinyl, they are predominantly a seller of other used media. The vinyl that winds up in the wooden crates at Half-Price is generally of the omnipresent variety: Tom Jones, Roger Whitaker, Anne Murray, Kenny Rogers, Barbara Streisand, Huey Lewis, Kenny Loggins, Chicago and so on and so forth. These stores are a dumping ground for entire collections that no longer have value to their owners. Many are inherited. Some are just unwanted, replaced by space-saving digital media. But when people dump collections indiscriminately, collectors are often rewarded for taking the time to dig a little deeper.

Toddler Fodder

Last week I brought my daughter into Half-Price to do a little browsing. On this occasion she’d been the one that had asked to go to the “record store.” And who am I to disagree? I’m so proud of her—the “record store” resides right next door to Toys R Us and she never thinks twice about her decision. I’ve been through the crates at this particular Half-Price enough to know that I’ve pretty much picked out anything that would have interested me. My daughter sits down at my feet and re-sorts the 45s. And by “re-sorts” I mean she finds one with a spacious paper sleeve and crams as many as she can fit into that sleeve. These records are generally in such bad condition (read: unplayable) that I don’t monitor her too closely. If I notice she’s getting a little too aggressive I pick her up and ask for her help flipping through the 33s. This is for her benefit only. If you’ve ever tried to read a book in a toddler’s hands you’ll know the impossibility of browsing records when they’re similarly in control. It’s not an ideal solution but she’s two years old, almost three—there are no ideal solutions for two year olds and vinyl shopping. This particular day I noticed that she’d gone a little too far with the 45 molestation, reaching a crop of unsullied records that deserved a better fate. I bent down to redirect her attention to the previously mauled items or the Disney Princess card game (she is content to merely dump this on the ground) but as I did so I noticed the boxed sets of vinyl stacked up behind the piles of 45s. They were situated in such a way that from my angle I could not have seen them unless I’d been kneeling on her level. There were some mail order classical music collections from anonymous orchestras but the boxes were curious enough and unusual enough that I felt compelled to pull them out and peruse their innards. As I descended into the abyss behind the 45s, beyond the mail-order classical, I found a couple of boxes much more to my liking.

Inside "5.00-Random"

The first was a generic, blue vinyl folder. The Half-Price sticker labeled the set: “$5.00 – Random.” I unsnapped the cover and flipped through the sleeves. The book had been filled with 7” 33rpm singles of various big bands of the 40s and 50s. Almost all were in great condition. Bing Crosby. Louis Prima. Kay Kyser. The history of this folio intrigued me. Someone had taken exquisite care of these records, most produced between 1945 and 1955, only to have them dumped here. The value isn’t the point however. They could be worthless, everyday coaster-fodder, but it wouldn’t matter. There’s a history here that’s beyond monetary measure. Old records smell like history. They have a weight, an importance—even when they came a dime a dozen at the time of their original distribution. I could take these home and one by one, place them on my turntable and discover something old and potentially meaningful that is again made brand new. People that do not buy vinyl just do not understand this. They don’t take much care in browsing a used CD rack for oddities and curios. Anything that is odd is probably not worth having. And if there is some perceived worth in compact discs, the worth is measured in nostalgia or kitsch but not adventure or discovery. Vinyl shopping is a treasure hunt. Used CD shopping is a force of habit.

Great Jazz Artists Pla the Music of Great Composers

My second discovery wasn’t so much an oddity but a welcome and immediately identified necessity. Though the box appeared worn, somewhat torn and tattered around the edges, the picture of the front screamed “BUY ME”—Nat and Cannonball Adderly beneath the title: Great Jazz Artists Play the Music of Great Composers. So I did. I bought that sucker and the “$5.00—Random” folio. Later, I looked up the label that released the set, Murray Hill, and found that they mostly reissued other catalogues. Sure enough, there on the back of the set:

“…these unsual LPs, drawn from the extensive catalogues of Riverside and its affiliated Jazzland label, bring you a fusing of some of the finest and most interesting examples of both elements. Here are many of the best and best-loved melodies of our greatest songwriters, as interpreted by varied lineups of modern jazz talent…”

Track listing for Great Jazz Artists Play the Music of Great Composers

And some further interweb browsing revealed that the set sells for as much as $50. Again, the potential resale value isn’t important. Interesting… but not important. The find, the search, the discovery, the hope of finding something sacred in a slushpile picked through by hundreds before me. Sacred means something different to everyone. For me, it was looking on the back of Great Jazz Artists to find Cole Porter songs played by the likes of Bill Evans, George Shearing, Wes Montgomery, Cannonball Adderly, Sonny Rollins and Johnny Griffin. Thelonius Monk playing Irving Berlin. Charlie Byrd and Billy Taylor doing Gershwin. These names are sacred to me. And after only one listen through Side 1 of Record 1 I knew I’d found something special. The recordings are clear and the vinyl in excellent condition. I can’t help but imagine this set’s prior owner and their connection to the records. Did they consider it a gem or merely part of the overwhelming burden of their old music collection? Judging by the condition of the box (worn and split along one seam) compared to the condition of the vinyl (superficial scratches, no skips)—I believe it must have been treasured just as I treasure it now. And this thought gives me great pleasure, that I’ve again given this music a good home, having rescued it from a vinyl purgatory. I haven’t yet listened to the entire set—there are 12 glorious discs that must be savored and brought back to life, but all in good time. Listening is only part of the joy. Shopping for vinyl—going, browsing, inspecting—forever offers new opportunities to strike gold, but if you’re not taking the time to search those darker corners of the second-hand stores and flea markets you’re going to find a lot of Anne Murray records but nothing particularly as precious or mysterious as “$5.00—Random.”