Wednesday, March 12, 2008

One Day in the Life of Euclid Records

We thought we'd create a conversation about our day, the music, the work, the customers, all of it. Record stores are fewer in number, but just as amazing a place to spend time as they ever were, and this should prove it. Steve, Jack, Jen, and Ted work the sales floor today, and everybody gets to contribute comments as the day goes on. Of course, since we play music while we work, that will be the organizing principle.

The Chiffons, Absolutely the Best!

Steve Pick: I work the first hour by myself, and I've been meaning to listen to this collection of classic 60s girl group material since we got a used copy in a couple days back. I just love these songs, the complex arrangements, the harmonies, the soaring hooks. Yeah, it's innocent stuff from the days when the culture could only acknowledge teenage sex as something that's hidden beneath the strong desire to hold hands and dance close. But the yearning stays true no matter the context, as does the joy and the heartbreak.

We've bought a ridiculous amount of used DVDs lately, and I'm spending my morning catching up on the project Neil has worked on since Saturday, processing all this stuff.

The Isley Brothers, Harvest For the World

Steve: I'm still here alone, we haven't had a single customer yet, but mornings can be slow. I'm grooving on Ernie Isley's ever magnificent space-guitar funk, and Ronnie Isley's sultry vocals. Honestly, I don't know this record very well, but I'm glad to be pedaling down the 1976 pop funk highway. The bonus track, a supposedly live version of their exquisite take on "Summer Breeze," has some of the most fake crowd noise I've ever heard. Still, this sounds looser than the studio version, so maybe somebody just wanted to dub in some enthusiasm.

Radar Bros., Auditorium

Jack Probst: Boy, it sure is nice out today. Perfect lounging about, listening to the mellow sounds of Radar Bros., waiting for customers kind of weather. I discovered these guys on a Merge records compilation a few years back. I just got this album yesterday and this is the first time I'm hearing it and I'm digging the sound. This sounds like it's on the same lines as the last album. It gets a thumbs up from me so far.

Steve: Do you know what's nice about being in Webster Groves? The landlord is out in front of the store sweeping up. That doesn't happen just anywhere, people. Jack's right, this record is a perfect complement to the most beautiful day we've had this year, though, honestly, I wish the guy could sing better. There is an eerie beauty going on, though.

Jen: I just walked in on what I thought was a really great Pink Floyd album that I'd never heard before. I'm enjoying this album (despite the Floyd factor). Who are these guys? Where are they from? While you guys figure that out I'm going to step back outside and have a cigarette with the woman who stepped out of the Senior Living place, put the seat on her walker down, and is enjoying the weather with a smoke.

Jack: That reminds me... last week while I was crossing the street with a cigarette, a woman stopped at Lockwood and Summit rolled down her window and proceeded to lecture me on the dangers of smoking. "You know smoking is bad for you, right? I smoked for many years and..." Then cars started driving by and I couldn't hear her, so I kept nodding. So, thank you, random stranger, for feeling the need to lecture someone you don't know and will never, ever see again. I had no idea there was any danger in smoking.

Jen: I had some random guy write down the contact info for The Biggest Loser for me at some point before I had the stomach stapling surgery. I don't think he thought he was being insulting either. You remember that song "Gigantic" by The Pixies? That's about the night I hung out with the Deal sisters in Dayton.

Birds of Avalon, Outer Upper Inner EP (Out 3/18/08)

Jack: It pays to put on something based solely on the fact that it was produced by Mitch Easter. Even though it isn't obvious that Mitch Easter produced this little record.

Jen: Yeah, this album is devoid of jangly guitars. And it sounded almost like Ozzy guesting on vocals a minute ago. That was a not very satisfying 70's style album. Jack snared my interest by telling me that it was a Mitch Easter production, but I think he may have been trying to prevent me from throwing on the Donna Summer Gold double album.

MGMT, Oracular Spectacular

Jen: Rob just walked up from the mail order department, chuckled, and said that this album was too catchy for it's own good, and that we'll be hearing it on TV commercials for a long, long time. I love this album, so I'm fine with that! Jack actually blogged about this in a previous should read it. While you do that I'm going to dance about the store for a bit. Jack will upload footage of that to YouTube in a short while.

Jack: Yeah, I keep pulling this one off the shelf to listen to when my eyes aren't hitting anything else decent on the promo wall. It's not to say we don't have tons of great music to play, it's just hard to think of what you want to hear on the spot. You have to factor in lots of things...

Steve: I just got back from being feted at lunch by a radio consultant. But, that's not as disgusting as it sounds. It was all for KDHX, the really cool radio station at 88.1 on your St. Louis dial where Darren, Al Becker, and I all do shows. (Just because Al never writes for the blog doesn't mean he doesn't work here - he's a shy and retiring sort, who never expresses his opinions.) Anyway, there are a lot of customers wandering around the store, as well as a WEA college rep, and the bouncy pop confections of MGMT, so I feel pretty good (and full of Racanelli's Pizza and salad).

The Frank Vignola Quintet, Kong Man

Steve: I've heard this guy before - he had an album out on the Mel Bay label last year, and I think he plays in some other group, but I can't remember if it's him or somebody else. (I'm a lot of help, aren't I?) Anyway, this is acoustic jazz guitar with a lot of zing to it (and occasional vocals, too). His compositions are catchy and fun, but the real reason to get this record as opposed to any of his others is the fact he comes up with a great jazz arrangement of "Black Sabbath" by, d'uh, Black Sabbath.

Jen: Sorry, I was out back working out on the pommel horse and missed the whole album. Has anyone seen my Vitamin Water?

Jack: This is a pleasant record to pole vault to.

Thao, We Brave Bee Stings and All

Steve: Darren and Jen have their faces all over the CD on the endcap because they just love this record to death. I don't get it, and was in fact, terribly surprised when Jen told me this was a woman singing. Because this sounds so much like the guy in Supertramp doing indie rock. I appreciate that she's singing about insurance and when her foot is asleep, but I only found out about the former because Jen pointed out, and about the latter because I read the song titles. She isn't doing anything to make me pay attention. I feel like going pole vaulting, which is much scarier when you're 6'8" tall because it's so much farther down to fall.

Jen: I adore this album, as does Jack who just mentioned that he sings "Bag Of Hammers" around the house. There are some totally infectious melodies on here which make it a great sing along album. I'm really looking forward to seeing her open for Xiu Xiu on March 31st at the Lemp Arts Center. I intentionally put this on today to gather the opinions of my co-workers because I have a hard time describing what she sounds like--occasionally an artist will come along for whom you have no reference point in terms of influences. Thao has an idiosyncratic vocal delivery, but I suppose Steve is referring to the timbre of her voice with the Supertramp comparison. I never would have thought of Supertramp and actually can't hear a similarity--although the idea of it is hysterical. My dad was a pole vaulter, so I'm going to break with tradition and stick to the pommel horse. Besides, it's a better workout.

Bunnygrunt, Karen Hater's Club

Steve: Oh, how I miss the good times of hanging out at Lemmons or the Way Out or any of a dozen other little venues, and seeing Bunnygrunt. It's my own fault I miss these times, as they still play all the time. I'm just a lot lazier than I was a couple years ago. Anyway, this latest release from the long-lived St. Louis band is far from their best, but how can you argue with a song as sweet as "More Loves Than Stupids"? (full disclosure: my wife came up with the song title.) The two Eric Hall remixes are crazier than I remember - I haven't played this in a year - but anything that gets Karen on the album when she didn't have many new songs is a good thing.

Jen: I always meant to go see Bunnygrunt play about 15 years ago and never got around to it. This was a fun album...lots of energy. I may go catch their next gig if they're still playing around.

Aislers Set, How I Learned To Write Backwards

Jen: I've always heard good things about this band and decided to give it a spin. A customer bought it after two songs, so I guess you can consider that the ultimate endorsement.

Steve: I'm often surprised at what catches customer's ears, though. Because, honestly, I remember listening to this a few minutes ago, but I don't remember anything else. I'd put it off on a concussion sustained from pole vaulting, but the mayor just came down and made us take down the pole we set up over the statue across the street. I'm not hurt, I just really don't remember it.

Donna Summer, Gold

Jen: Oh yeah! Donna Summer has a great breathy vocal sound. And I really can't say enough nice things about whoever it was that came up with the disco hi-hat beat. And Jack left early for the day, so I don't feel bad about indulging in a guilty pleasure. A double album does seem like a bit much, however, so I'm gonna go stand by the CD player and edit out some filler.

Steve: All hail the genius of Giorgio Moroder. Donna Summer was far from the greatest vocalist of her era - she could belt 'em out like a chorus girl suddenly thrust to the front of the stage, or she could moan like she was getting her privates tickled, but as anybody who ever wasted more than three minutes of his or her life listening to any of her post Moroder recordings (i.e., the second disc of this collection) could tell you, she had no personality of her own. These early records, however, are as thrilling as ever, all that orchestration, those swirling strings, that non-stop hi-hat, the bass popping and chugging, the full-scale aural assault of disco at its sexiest apex. So far from monotonous, this is music of subtle complexity. I can't believe how much we hated this stuff when it was popular, because nowadays, I think I'd sooner throw this on than anything by Sham 69.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, IsIs

Jen: I love EPs and this is a really potent one. It's not so much a return to form for the YYYs, but a successful integration of the styles they were exploring on the rather weak release Show Your Bones.

Steve: They'll still never give us a better song than "Maps," or maybe not even one half as good as that one, and it took hearing a St. Louis band cover it better than the original for me to realize how good these guys even were in the first place. That said, these guys remain interesting, with dynamics that actually add to the songs rather than exist merely because they can be done, and with melodies that wind their way down the paths rarely taken.

Ted Ryan (he's the new guy): Though my musical chops may have been on the line, I decided that the first bit of tunes that I pick to play in the store might as well be the lovely Karen O serenading everyone with screams of rock and love. Be it curiosity, be it a love for rock and roll ladies, I enjoy this new group of songs from the always exciting Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Wynonie Harris, Good Rockin' Tonight

Steve: Oh, how I love Mr. Wynonie Harris. His records may have been the most joyous and exhilarating of the jump blues era, or at least he gave Roy Milton a good one for the prize. I mean, the title track helped jump start rock'n'roll when Elvis sang it ten years later, and in the context of this album (or any other decent Harris collection, most of which come in and out of print with an unfortunate regularity), you can tell it's just one of many spectacular cuts he recorded during his short heyday. He's got the gigantic voice to match the wild lifestyle his songs describe, and a sense of swing that can make you dizzy if you try to catch up.

Jen: I just walked back inside--it was so nice out I sat on the sidewalk and ate lunch--and said, " this Louis Jordan?"

Morphine, Yes

Jen: I love the spare instrumentation and moody sound, but--to be honest--it sounds a little dated and I'm a bit bored.

The Felice Brothers, The Felice Brothers
Ted: After seeing these lads play with the Drive-By Truckers, and later reading that they began touring twenty years ago in a special education bus, I've had a hankering to look into them. Unfortunately, my mysterious band of Brothers haven't held up as well as their infamous image in my head and I find them trying a little too hard to be an Americana sound that they don't quite reach.

Jen: The singer is a Dylan wannabe. *Yawn!

Elliott Smith, Either/Or

Jen: Somehow I missed out on the bulk of Elliott Smith's career when he was alive. I suppose I was far more interested in the noisier stuff that the Kill Rock Stars label was releasing at the time. I do remember the first thing I ever heard was the true-to-the-original version of The Beatles "Because" which was used in the end credits to the movie American Beauty. For some reason it has always been Elliott's covers that have drawn me in, even though he adds little to them in terms of interpretation. There is a gorgeous version of Big Star's "Thirteen" on last years posthumous Elliott Smith release, New Moon. New Moon is a great companion piece to Either/Or as it draws from never released studio recordings made from this period. And while Elliott is far better known for his later releases on Dreamworks, I always think of Either/Or as his strongest work--one which makes me nostalgic for a different time and a rainy city that I've never visited. There is definitely something about Elliott's beautiful and melancholy songs that resonates with listeners of many generations...I'm always amazed to see 20 year olds buying this on vinyl.

Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat

Ted: After seeing the wonderfully cheeky Hee-Haw-esk video, I was delighted to find that Lewis and the Watson twins had put together a full album of great tunes. It's a definite favorite of recent years.

Jen: This concludes our broadcast day here at Euclid Records! Catch us next time.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing guys! I'm enjoying this blog. Great insights on a wide variety of music and funny too. Looking forward to more banter from you record buffs!!


Anonymous said...

i sing "violet" around the house b/c it keeps sticking in my head. "bag of hammers" is just my fav track. not that it really matters one way or the other...

- Jack

Dean Minderman said...

Fun stuff, you guys should do this once a month or so...

Re: the origins of that disco hi-hat thing - Legend has it that Earl Young, who was one of the drummers with the Philadelphia International house band employed by Gamble & Huff in the 1970s, was the first to come up with the oft-imitated open-hi-hats-on-the-offbeats lick.

Young's Wikipedia bio alludes to this:

"Young is seen as the inventor of the disco style of rock drumming, as he was the first to make extensive and distinctive use of the Hi Hat cymbal throughout the playing time of an R & B recording. This is turn led to DJ's favoring his recordings because they could hear the cymbal quite easily in their headphones as they "cued up" records to be mixed."

fak3r said...

Yeah, do more of these - please. When I was a youngster growing up I'd read Steve's Friday music writeups in the Post (yeah, that's dating me...) and to hear the stream of consciousness of the rekerd store worker is a blast. And yeah, while Elliot wrote a ton of great songs, Either/Or will always be my favorite.