Thursday, March 20, 2008

Another Day in the Life of Euclid Records

We had such a great time, and had such good response last week when we told you about our day of listening to music and waiting on customers that we've decided to do it again. Today, Steve, Jack, and Jen are scheduled on the floor, and Darren is hanging out in the office, doing graphic design work. Here's what happens (and don't forget to check regularly throughout the day for updates):

Creedence Clearwater Revival, Green River.

Steve Pick: It's always important to choose wisely what music you will use to start the day. When I saw a used copy of this CCR album, I knew I had hit the jackpot. The singles, everybody knows - "Green River," "Wrote a Song For Everyone," "Bad Moon Rising," and "Lodi." But, John Fogerty was in such a zone back in 1969 that everything he touched was magnificent, a perfect chugging swamp of rock'n'roll paranoia and release. In fact, he was so casually brilliant, it's easy to overlook how the best Creedence albums (which is to say, most of them) stand up nearly forty years later as among the best rock'n'roll has ever offered.

Darren Snow: I always enjoy Creedence. I was just about to say that every time I hear one of their individual albums, I kinda wish I was listening to the incredible Chronicle compilation instead--because a lot of their non-hit album tracks sound a bit like slightly altered and slightly inferior versions of one or another of their better-known tunes. (See: Early Motown Syndrome.) And then "Sinister Purpose" came on and blew my mind a little. None of their singles mined this particular groove, and it's got that creepy, apocalyptic edge a lot of Fogerty's best material exhibits. I wish he still sounded this haunted, this bad-ass, this...weird. And I wish Dave Edmunds would produce an album for him. Wouldn't that be great?

Jackie McLean, Right Now!

Steve: The first customer of the day just walked in with two boxes of used LPs to sell us. While Joe goes through them, I'm enjoying this excellent 1965 release featuring McLean on alto sax, Larry Willis on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass, and Clifford Jarvis on drums. Blue Note was so chock full of talent back in those days that even with this rhythm section devoid of star power, you've got a record that can't be denied. The tunes are full of rhythmic shifts and turns, and McLean roars right through every change with aplomb. There are two versions of the title track, and the previously unreleased one burns brighter than the original. But, the true standout is the Willis ballad, "Poor Eric," presumably written to mourn Eric Dolphy. It is mind-numbingly gorgeous. Thanks to Darren, I now realize Cranshaw's bowed bass supplies what I took to be a second horn on this track.

Darren: Since I'm e-mailing my comments to Steve from another part of the store, I have a couple pieces of spam to delete every time I open Outlook Express...usually stock tips or herbal-Viagra plugs, things like that. The fanciful, English-as-a-second-language subject headings are a riot, and I realized I hadn't looked at in a while. It's a collection of cartoons based on those absurd subject headings, and while it hasn't been updated in ages, if you haven't seen it yet it'll ALL be new to you. Check it out. You'll never hear the phrase "Amazing new pleasure for men" the same way again. ...Oh, what now? Jackie McLean? Right. Of the Jackie I've heard, I think I'd still give the nod to Vertigo, with its stellar lineup and the tough, smart stop-start dynamic of the title track and "Cheers." But Right Now! is the one with the strangely becalming Dolphy tribute, "Poor Eric," which is always good for the soul.

Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend.

Steve: Trendy young band, I still can't make up my mind. Things to like - the way they incorporate strings is fairly unique; the chord progressions can be catchy; they have an interesting sense of dynamics. Things not to like - they're so damn chirpy; the new wave vocal mannerisms seem really weird when you're no longer young enough to think they're fresh. Maybe these guys are the new Haircut 100.

Jack Probst: About half this album makes me think of Paul Simon's Graceland. Some of the little jangly guitar bits and percussion is straight out of that record. I think Darren said they're getting some backlash for that. I see no problem with it. They're influenced by a great record. They're not completely ripping it off or anything. Now I can't say I was too impressed with their SNL performance. The band sounded fine, but the singer sounds better on the record. I'd like to see them come to town. They could probably bring a good sized crowd to the Bluebird. I really dig that place.

Darren: I first heard VW about a year ago, I suppose, when one of the music blogs I frequent offered up an MP3 of "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa." The Haircut-100-plays-township-jive vibe was fresh and different, and I jumped at the chance to check them out in Madison on my summer vacation. Under the stars on the Union Terrace at the university, they inspired joyous dancing in what looked like a bunch of bridesmaids who had probably never heard of them before. It was a good time, presided over by a good-time band. Wonderful! Then, the day before the CD finally came out in January, I was struck by a revelation: "This band is going to suffer the worst backlash EVER," I said aloud. "It's already started," deadpanned Steve. The next day I saw them on the cover of Spin. Uh-oh. The ick factor increased exponentially during their SNL appearance, with Ezra Koenig's shoulders draped preppie-style in a bulky sweater and Rostom Batmanglij mugging theatrically like a semi-dreamy son of Stan Ridgway. (God, I hate people who sing with their eyebrows.) I know it's the yacht-boy schtick and the show-offy cultural literacy of the lyrics that will sink them if anything does, but when the ax falls they'll be remembered as the band that "proved" the fly-by-night nature of blog-fueled stardom: Ladies and gentlemen, meet the InterKnack. But! Is the album any good? Oh, it's absolutely lovely. At this moment, I just don't want to ever have to look at them or read another word about them. I was probably the first person to play them on the radio in St. Louis, and I was so excited about them I sang their praises to everyone...and now, though they have changed not one whit, I feel compelled for some reason to tear them down. I feel like the British music press.

The Fleshtones, Take A Good Look.

Steve: It's just a rock'n'roll party, people! I got nothing intelligent to say, because these guys, thirty or so years into their career, still make music that sounds like it feels to be drunk at a party with everybody you enjoy hanging out with.

Darren: Confidential to everyone who's ever bought a Hives CD from us: You need to come back and get this one too. It's the right thing to do.

Bob Mould, District Line.

Jack: Jen and I have been trying to write an entry about this record for a while now. Jen said we should call it "Bob Mould sure is buff".

Jen: Well, he is looking good--he must hit the gym a couple times a week--a very different physique from when he was the pudgy frontman for Husker Du. I wasn't a big fan of Husker Du, but I loved Sugar. Great vocals, great acoustic guitar sound, amazing songs. I really admire a lot of the risks he takes in his solo work--experimenting with new beats and sounds. Because--like a lot of artists--he could have rested on his laurels and given us Sugar redux again and again. I love the unrelenting disco hi-hat on "Shelter Me," it really propels the very simple chorus into something special. I even like it when he runs his vocals through the vocoder--though a simple Google search reveals how much other folks hate it. I know it should be giving me a really horrible Peter Frampton flashback, but somehow it works for me.

Jack: His last record really hit me. Body of Song was full of that rockin' Bob Mould guitar sound, but incorporated a lot of the electronica dance club stuff he had been experimenting with. It took me a little longer to get into this new album, except for "Stupid Now" which hits you like a ton of bricks. I like that he made this sound more like a Sugar record. Whether it be acoustic or electric, there's something about Bob's guitar sound that let's you know it's him.

Jen: "Stupid Now" has an amazing emotional vocal--there's a point where his voice breaks in the chorus, not because he can't handle it as a singer, but because Mould sounds like he's about to become completely undone. "Walls In Time," which closes the album, is another great Sugar-style song complete with cellos.

Darren: I'm starting to suspect that when a rock musician comes out of the closet, a special delegation comes to his house with a certificate and says "Congratulations! Here's your sequencer." Bob fulfills his quota with a couple pieces of whomping synth-pop this time around (with bonus Cher points for Vocoder usage!) but mostly sticks to the handsome brand of melodic, seething-just-below-the-surface rock he approached in Husker Du and perfected in Sugar. Further evidence that nobody does wounded pride like Bob: "Again and Again."

Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago

Steve: I tried listening to this guy at home yesterday, since he's gonna be in town at the Billiken Club in a few weeks. He's really quiet, really slow, really introspective, and, frankly, really hard to concern myself with. I enjoyed the Bob Mould while I was at lunch, and now I come back, Jen and Joe are buying used - everybody's selling used today, so get in here and pick up some cool bargains - and this music, while quiet, sounds frantic in the context of all this activity.

Jack: Yeah, I think this is a record I'm going to have to listen to at home. It's a little too quiet to focus on with all this buying back and such going on. The high pitch vocals makes me think of Super Furry Animals's Gruff Rhys, but without all the far out spaciness. This is something I will dig more with headphones on and the lights out.

Steve: Dang! Somebody listening on headphones to a used CD they may buy is actually louder than this record, and we have the volume way up. I think I'd like to hear him sing with a better, more varied guitarist.

Jen: I've been listening to Bon Iver a lot lately at home and decided to bring a copy into the store, but yeah, this has been a total frenzied half hour in which I haven't had a chance to devote my attention to this. These songs are very introspective and demand your full attention. About a week ago I decided that the phrase "hauntingly beautiful" was a cliche that really needed to be retired, but now I'm really grasping for that phrase. The multi-tracked falsetto vocals are gorgeous and For Emma, Forever Ago just made my short list for Best of 2008.

Darren: This is the kind of thing that demands closer attention than I can give it in the workplace. I have heard three of the songs under more controlled circumstances (thank you, Internet!), but none of them stuck with me. Love the album cover, though.

k.d. lang, Watershed.

Steve: "In cold dark places, I'll dream of spring." Hey, Spring starts today or tomorrow - I can never get that thing straight. The sun is shining, and I'm enthralled by what I more and more believe to be lang's finest record. Every song sparkles, and she's got such incredible control over her vocals. Yeah, but she's always had that. This time, though, she's written everything herself, and if she's also responsible for the arrangements, she's become a musical genius, because these sound so expansive, so light and sure-footed, as to be irresistible.

Jack: I have fond, distant memories of k.d. lang. My uncles liked her when I was growing up and I remember they had a Laserdisc of some of her music videos. When they were off at school, or work or where ever, I'd watch their various music video collections. The Cure, They Might Be Giants, k.d. lang... That's one of the places I got my start. This record is pleasant, but after hearing it a few times I can't say anything is sticking in my head.

Jen: Wow. I haven't really kept up with k.d. since Ingenue, but this is really wonderful. It takes an exceptional vocalist with interperative powers that just won't quit to be able to effortlessly toss off a lyric like "I am happily indifferent to the ones who have consistantly been wrong/and all that once confined us like minutiae at its finest now is gone."

Darren: An old Rolling Stone article posited that Seal sounds great as long as you don't see his lyrics in print; they're a curious mix of trite and preposterous. I've always thought the same is true for k.d....she can really SELL a piece of junior-high-notebook poetry ("Maybe a great magnet pulls all souls to what's true!" Gee, ya think?) no one else could get away with because her arrangements and her voice are so damn beautiful. There's a kind of singer I've always called the "I-have-a-pretty-voice" singer--the type who's so obsessed with projecting a bell-like clarity that absolutely no nuance or emotion is delivered. k.d. COULD be that kind of singer, but her impressive control is tempered by a palpable humanity, God, I'm writing k.d. lang lyrics. Anyway, wow, it's a beautiful record.

She & Him, Volume 1.

Jack: She & Him are actress Zooey Deschanel & singer/songwriter M. Ward. It's a sweet little record for the start of Spring. Zooey harmonizes with herself to create that 60's girl group sound on tracks like "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" and "This is Not a Test". They get a little twangy here and there. There's only one problem I have with this record; M. Ward doesn't start singing until track 8, a cover "You Really Got a Hold On Me", and doesn't come back again until their cover of The Beatles' "I Should Have Known Better". I'd like to have heard more from "Him". I'm thinking that if Scarlett Johansson's Tom Waits record ends up being a bust, at least I've got one good record by my short list of actress crushes.

Steve: This is really, really sweet girl group pop, with a sprinkling of country lonesomeness (and, if you've ever heard Dolly Parton's earliest work, you know that's not a contradiction in terms). On the other hand, while Ward does harmonize quite nicely, I could live without his singing in general, and their slowed-down stoner take on "You Really Got a Hold on Me."

Darren: I thought about starting each record review with the subject heading from the last piece of spam I deleted...which would make my She & Him headline "I spanked my teacher on her butt." Oh my!...As if an album's worth of indie-licious actress Zooey Deschanel singing adorable retro-pop songs wasn't a sexy enough proposition! M. Ward is her musical enabler in this partnership, and the material is much cheerier than M. generally allows himself to be. Reference points range from Nancy Sinatra (in non-chastising mode) to upbeat beehive-hairdo countrypolitan. I just saw a rerun of the SNL with the "Country Roses" ad, and with that fresh in my mind I could easily imagine Zooey launching into "Ain't Nothin' Cuter (than a Fat Country Baby Eatin' Peaches off a Hardwood Floor)." This is such a perfect record for the first day of spring!

The Besnard Lakes, Are the Dark Horse.

Steve: So, apparently Mike Love and Brian Wilson were each kidnapped at gunpoint, thrown into a room with David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, forced to listen to Velvet Underground records at a loud volume for weeks, and then waterboarded until they'd forgotten everything they ever knew about melody, and then thrown into a recording studio run by some guy who obviously wanted them for the talents they no longer have. At least, that's the most likely scenario on display here.

Jen: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, baby!

Darren: That's a pretty far-fetched scenario, Steve. We all know that sixties icons NEVER continue making records after their talent dissipates! Anyway, melody may not have been the point here--though there are at least two Besnard Lakes songs that pop into my head unbidden on occasion, so they must be doing something right. These reverb-loving Canadians seem to be more interested in the architecture of sound and the creation of a mood; this is evocative, cinematic stuff. The "city to city" chorus of "On Bedford and Grand," for instance, is a massive, streamlined, slowly-advancing monolith--the aural equivalent of some darkly magnificent retro-futuristic flying machine the size of several city blocks, casting a chilling shadow on hundreds of terrified CGI pedestrians in that "Sky Captain" movie. I'd recommend this to fans of Band of Horses (though it's much darker), or to the Besnards' fellow-travelers Young Galaxy.

Candi Staton, His Hands.

What a great soul singer, what a solid, if unspectacular soul record. This came out a couple years ago, and while I wish Staton had the kind of song choice or creative arrangements that help make Bettye LaVette albums so wonderful these past few years, I'll settle for the craftsmanship and journeywoman quality on display right here.

Darren: When you've shared a bed with Clarence Carter, maybe the very idea of "interesting" loses its appeal.

Mike Doughty, Golden Delicious.

Jack: I just got back from lunch. I spent it out in my car with the windows open, reading "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" (otherwise known as the book that became Blade Runner). So I'm daydreaming of retiring andys and Harrison Ford and how it's such a lovely day out. I get back to work to find 1000s of dollar records to price. I've more or less numbed myself to this dreadful task. Having the smell of mildew from basements and attics on my hands. Bleck. So it comes to be my turn to pick a record. We finally got Mike Doughty's new album back in stock, and that brightens my day up. Check out my review on the blog here.

Darren: At first I was disappointed that the guy who married beatnik-Bukowski wordplay to some seriously fucked-up trip-hop back in his Soul Coughing days had become a Dave Matthews-sponsored purveyor of hackysack rock, but then I realized that if his goofball lyrics and folky leanings continue to develop at the same rate, in five years he'll be Roger Miller and I'll love him again.

Jack: Yeah, I miss the Soul Coughing days, but I've embraced what he's done since moving on. The lyrics are still there. They're a lot less drug induced. More about girls. Might be about drugs as well, but it's less obvious, I guess.

Steve: You've gotta like somebody who can take the "Ba-Rum-Ba-Tum-Tum" hook from "The Little Drummer Boy" and turn it into something new and fresh. Dude is catchy.

Blonde Redhead, 23.

Jack: We helped customers and priced dollar records. Not much to say...

Jen: This is a staff favorite though. In a previous post I talked about how when customers ask what's playing I have an automatic reaction to say My Bloody Valentine. Steve mentioned as he walked out the door that this is burned in his mind as well, but mostly because he's heard it so much that he feels like he has a 15 year old relationship with this album.

Del the Funky Homosapien, Eleventh Hour.

Jack: First, I'd like to thank that dumb Tony Hawk Skateboarding video game for introducing me to Del's song "If You Must" back when I was in high school. I'd also like to thank Anna for bringing the Homosapien to my ears directly on many occasions. I'm digging this new record. The man is animated with his flow of verse. (And he literally was animated when he freestyled for Gorillaz on their first record). If Adult Swim needed a new voice for one of their shows, Del should be on their list right after AS regular MF Doom.

Jen: Well, the rest of the staff has gone for the night and I'm doing something I frequently do when I'm here by myself--put something on that I've already heard earlier in the day. And I like it so much that I've played it for a third time just now--this new Bon Iver is so gorgeous. I believe that this was originally self-released, then the folks at Jagjaguwar picked it up. Can't wait to see the show at the Billiken.

That's all for now, folks. Catch us next time. Uh, that would be...tomorrow!


Anonymous said...

Yes. It's amazing how Creedence has only gotten better with time. And that includes Fogerty, how doesn't seem to age a bit?

By the way, thanks for the heads up on the Johnny Cash TV show. I netflixed Disc One and watched last night. Many great performances, including Creedence doing "Bad Moon Rising". Waylon Jennings? I didn't even recognize him. And Waylon's band back then was just plain bizarre. I loved the Linda Rondstadt story too. Damn, whe WAS a hottie!

As always, enjoyin' this blog.

Euclid Records said...

Cool, Spencer, glad you're enjoying our work, and just as glad you took the Johnny Cash recommendation. It's a blast, isn't it?


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