Saturday, March 29, 2008

Record Store Day: What It Means To You and Me

by Joe Schwab

April 19th will be the first Record Store day celebrated by independent record stores throughout the country. Here in St. Louis, Euclid Records and Vintage Vinyl will be having various promotions, sales and giveaways. Yes this is a promotional ploy to entice the music lover to put down the laptop and come back to the record store. I don’t deny the ease of downloading a song for a buck on ITunes or Amazon. Hell, I own a record store and still spend an average of 50 bucks a month for the convenience of buying CD’s or DVD’s through Amazon and other on-line syndicates. But nothing has replaced the physical store, browsing through the CD or LP racks, checking out the artwork, finding out the personnel or just smelling that wonderful musty stench of a 30 year old record.

Over the past 10 years or so, many friends of mine have shut their doors permanently and music lovers all over the country are saying goodbye to their beloved hangout, that record store where they purchased their first Beatles 45 or their first Smiths 12” single. St. Louis boasted nearly 50 record stores in the early 90’s, we’re down to a precious few today. We are lucky though, we’re doing better than most cities and we still have a number of world class stores such as Webster Records, CD Reunion, The Record Exchange, Apop, Downtown Music, Now Hear This and one last survivor of the Granddaddy of all St. Louis Indies, Streetside Records. These surviving dinosaurs exist because of a loyal following, a niche market and the fact that the owners and employees love what we do.

So what is the independent record store up against?

1- Box stores cutting prices on new releases to below wholesale cost.

2- Rising rents.

3- An entire generation of music fans that care only about songs and not a full length creation.

4- Stagnant pricing from the record labels.

The first wave of record store closings in the late 90’s were a result of impossible competition from the box stores such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart. While this is still a factor, it’s not as dire as it once was. Most independent stores have little or new use for the new Eagles or Justin Timberlake product, much as box stores have no use for Vampire Weekend or MGMT. Besides, music sales for Best Buy and Wal-Mart are minimal at best and they suffer the same types of musical indifference that the Indies do, only they have computers and clothing sales to fall back on.

One of the biggest problems for most music stores right now comes with the high overhead brought on by landlords who are catering to the large chain stores and restaurants. The end of 2007 also brought about the end of a St. Louis institution, Streetside on Delmar. This is where it all began, the first store in what became the largest Midwest chain of independently owned record stores. Though Streetside went through various ownerships (currently owned by the large FYE organization) this was quite possibly one of the finest record stores in the country in its time. But rents shot up and the outcry was heard throughout the loop, “don’t let chains invade our neighborhood!”. But how can a “Mom and Pop” store of any kind exist in this day and age, especially a startup company. A drive through the state of Missouri tells the answer. Beautiful town squares, hundreds of them throughout the state, with empty storefronts having once housed locally owned 5 & 10’s, grocery stores, clothing boutiques and yes record stores now forced out by the shadow of that Wal-Mart Super Center on the highway at the edge of town. They can’t compete with the prices and as a result, they can’t make the rent.

About a year ago, the New York Times ran an article on the “graying” of the record store. Meaning the record store was now a place for old diehards that still buy their music the old fashioned way. While I do think this article was pretty accurate at the time, things have changed in the past year. Vinyl is going through another renaissance and those stores that stuck with it are thriving or at least surviving much better. The demand for vinyl has increased 12% nation wide over the past 2 sales quarters as the CD continues to fall. This is a huge relief if it continues. A generation of album buyers was being lost as the market had turned singles driven as it was before the advent of the long playing record. College and High School kids are now realizing the beauty of the album cover art, that true vinyl sound and the sequencing of a record. The long playing record was becoming a lost art, and possibly the truest way a musician can tell his full story.

The CD biz has been dying on the vine for a number of years now. Maybe a ray of light can now be seen as the major labels might (and that’s a big might) have seen the error of their ways. The price of CD’s has never dropped, with the exception of older catalogue titles. If the classic record store is going to survive, the prices need to be slashed big time. Nobody ever chose downloading music over buying the product. Hell, music fans have been taping for years and during the days of double platinum record sales. It’s gotten to the point where eighteen or nineteen dollars for a CD is no longer feasible. If you bring the price down below ten dollars, I’m talkin’ 9.99 folks; we could be seeing gold and platinum records on those Billboard charts again.

The death of the Indy record store has been greatly exaggerated. Though the gloom and doom forecasters have been predicting rain, the sun is out and we’re ready to play. The strong have survived, the kids are starting to come back and the future is strong enough that Euclid has extended its lease in Webster for another 5 years. St. Louis, as well as everywhere else needs to support its “Mom and Pops”. The outcry can be deafening when a long standing business closes its doors for good. But we need you right now, people. Come on in.

Support your local record store on April 19th and support all your favorite independently owned businesses. We tend to take them for granted when they’re around and hang our heads when they’re gone.

Here are three guys that keep us in business:

Screaming at a wall: where have all the record stores gone?

Friday, March 28, 2008

THE JAZZ TOURIST: Almost Doing Things He Used To Do

by Darren Snow

If I am ever struck with amnesia, there are at least two things I am looking forward to doing. First, I would want to see the Gateway Arch. Having lived in St. Louis all my life, I'm totally used to it, and I have never really gotten to "see it for the first time" as an adult. I suspect it would really freak me a nice way.

Second, I hope I'd get the chance to rediscover music in a more chronological fashion--to hear the inspirations first and the imitations later. To wit, I've been listening to Elvis Costello for thirty years, and I am only just now getting familiar with the music of the late Chet Baker--someone Costello admired greatly and collaborated with briefly. Here's the trouble: Whenever Chet, as a vocalist, hits one of those trademark low, bluish notes that makes your heart drop into your stomach, all I can hear is that trick Costello employed to make "Almost Blue" sound like a Chet Baker song. (Which it eventually became.) How can I ever immerse myself fully in the luxurious melancholy of a Chet Baker ballad if part of me will always be blurting out "I see what ya did there, Elvis!"

Anyway, the Chet record on the turntable presently is Live in Europe 1956. (It's out of print on CD, but Euclid's got the LP in stock at the moment.) Recorded in Florence with a band of primarily French extraction, it contains two long uptempo instrumentals and a couple of typically cool-but-heartbreaking vocals: "This Is Always" and "You Don't Know What Love Is." The performances are uniformly solid, and the mix is just a tad muffled; it's not distracting at all after a minute or two of acclimation, and while Chet and tenor-homme Jean-Louis Chautemps are bit farther in front of the rhythm section that we're used to, it just adds to the you-are-there ambience.

One of my favorite things about this record, though--at least on the 1982 Musidisc pressing I'm enjoying--is the liner notes. They're mostly in Italian, but there's one paragraph in charmingly broken English that's a little awkward but certainly gets the point across. Here it is in full, typos and all:

"Chesney Henry 'Chet' Baker, trumpet, flugelhorn, singer, born Yale, Oklahoma 12/23/29. Discovered by Charlie Parker but really popular in 1952/53 trough his association with the Gerry Mulligan quartet. Very young, he ran into the narcotics problem that had interfered with his career but never with his music. Basically, Chet is a genius, propably the most exciting trumpet player in the whole world. Miles was greater, Diz was greater, but Chet has something else may be one kind of tenderness and humanity. Chet can't play for the bread, he plays his life. Like a lot of introvert guys, he must communicate."

I Saw Mike Doughty At The Gargoyle Last Night

by Jack Probst

So I walk into The Gargoyle last night and there’s a bunch of guys on stage jamming on some weird sounds. Something didn’t seem right. They were all wearing hats and fake beards. My sister pointed out that Doughty was wearing the blonde one. I should have spotted him sooner since some of his tattoos were exposed. Honestly, I still don’t know what they were doing, but it was fun any how. Next up were the actual opening band, The Panderers, whom are the first band to sign to Doughty’s new microlabel Snack Bar. They were a bit twangy and southern. I think I liked them, but it’s a bit hard for me to decide since the student sound guy couldn’t fix a few of the technical difficulties.

Mike Doughty’s Band started the set off a little medley of two Soul Coughing songs, and later did the hit “Circles.” They didn’t play anything from the new album until half way between the set. “Put It Down” was a fun sing-along, and “Navigating by the Stars at Night” was rockin’ like nobody’s business. Doughty grabbed a sampler and tooled around with vocal clips, leading to the new song “More Bacon than the Pan Can Handle.” The highlight of the show was a wonderful version of “I Hear the Bells,” in which bass player Scrap took up the guitar and drummer Pete took a break. Keyboardist John Kirby, who resembles a long haired Justin Timberlake from the side, had a lot of time to shine as he twiddled away on the keys all night. Absent from the set was new fan favorite “Wednesday,” but they did surprise me by playing Kenny Rogers’s “The Gambler,” which he released a version of on an iTunes EP in 2005. The band saved the singles for the end of the night, “27 Jennifers” feels right with a full band, and hearing “Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well” made me realize that I like that song more live.

I snapped a picture and captured the “I Hear the Bells” performance:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Charlie Louvin to Headline Old Orchard Gazebo Series 2008

The nights are already getting longer, the weather is getting warmer, and those magical evenings of live music and a movie outside at the Gazebo in Old Orchard (just a block or so away from Euclid Records)are coming back. The schedule is pretty much complete, so start making arrangements to spend your Friday evenings here in Webster Groves. You've got two months to make sure you can have fun with us.

Old Orchard Merchants Association Present

The 5th Annual Gazebo Music & Film Series 2008

Gazebo Park Webster Groves - Big Bend and Old Orchard

June 13 - Kim Massie - Alfred Hitchcocks The Birds

June 20 - Anita Rosemond - The Muppet Movie

June 27 - Charlie Louvin - A Mighty Wind

July 11 - Marquise Knox - Ferris Buellers Day Off

July 18 - Raven Moon - Young Frankenstein

July 25 - The Skeletons - Viewers Choice (to be chosen over the course of the series by the audience)

Music starts at 7:00 P.M. Movie starts when it gets dark.

Here is a Charlie Louvin video to get you pumped up:

And a bonus feature on St. Louis blues artists, including Marquise Knox:

And we couldn't resist this appearance by Kim Massie with Cyndi Lauper Live on the Levee last year:

Monday, March 24, 2008

Elvis Costello Fans - This Is For You

by Steve Pick

Honestly, I've never seen Word magazine from England, but they put Elvis Costello on the cover of their magazine, and this interview is fascinating reading about the state of the record business in 2008. I bet he'd like Euclid Records almost as much as he likes Amoeba in California.

Not mentioned is the fact that Costello's next album will be released on LP and download only - no CD is scheduled. We'll get the vinyl in stock when it comes out.

If you saw Costello open for Bob Dylan last year, you may remember this unrecorded song, co-written with T Bone Burnett:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

R.I.P. Cachao, Brilliant Bassist and Innovator

by Steve Pick

I wish I was more intimately connected to Cuban music, as I absolutely adore it when I hear it. I know that Cachao was one of the best, and his presence on a session of any Cuban artist was a guarantee that it would be worth hearing. Check out the more well informed obituary here.

And, now, let's dance:

In this one, the music starts roughly a minute and a half into the video. It's a duet between pianist Bebo Valdes and Cachao, and you can really hear just how brilliant a bassist Cachao was not to mention some damn fine piano playing from Valdes).

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Dig Them Crazy Pigs

Stan Freberg and Shorty Rogers.

Friday, March 21, 2008

5 Star Jam Session

Once Norman Granz sold the Verve label in 1960, he took his bundle of cash, moved to the Riviera, bought impossibly rare Picasso and Miro’s and dined on caviar and champagne. He never totally got out of the Jazz business; he continued managing Oscar Peterson's and Ella Fitzgerald's careers as well as bringing a new style of the annual Jazz at the Philharmonic package to Europe. The tour usually was made up of 3-4 different popular combos and the usual Jam Sessions were eliminated from the bill, until this night. Here we have some amazing footage from Düsseldorf, Germany where The Oscar Peterson Trio, The Stan Getz Quintet and The Miles Davis Quintet were the JATP tour de force. Below is footage (and some beautiful footage at that) of two tenor titans, Stan Getz and John Coltrane along with Oscar Peterson, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb performing Thelonious Monk’s “Hackensack” also known as “Rifftide”. Though both are brilliant in their own ways, these are two diverse styles that frankly don’t mesh particularly well. Stan Getz being a disciple of the Lester Young “cool school” and Coltrane coming from…well Coltrane, a true original sound. So before you determine that Coltrane “mops the floor” with Getz, think of these as two separate ideas, two individual genius’ both at the top of there respective games. Getz taken on his own is steady, inspired and often brilliant. Coltrane is so dynamic; it’s hard for anybody to follow him.

Euclid Coltrane page

Euclid Getz page

Euclid Peterson page

Thursday, March 20, 2008

An Important Message From Your Friends

Now, don't forget to keep looking at the next post for more updates on what we're playing in the store today.

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!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Listen to the new Breeders single "We're Gonna Rise"

by Jen Eide

Kim Deal is one of those singers with an instantly recognizable voice. It's a shame that she was so under utilized as a vocalist in the Pixies--her clear delivery was such a perfect foil to Black Francis' incomprehensible shrieking. Perhaps this scarcity of singing was one of the things that made the arrival of the first Breeders album Pod such an event. The new Breeders album Mountain Battles is due out on April 8th. Someone leaked three songs from Mountain Battles onto YouTube (with accompanying amateur videos). Here's the best one, entitled "We're Gonna Rise." It's on par with any of the spare, slow songs on Pod.

Another thing that was so great about Pod was the collaboration between Deal and the equally underutilized Throwing Muses singer/guitarist Tanya Donelly. I recently heard an old interview with Donelly in which she states that the first Breeders album was to feature Deal's songs and the second one was to be all Donelly's. Between contractual obligations and entanglements with their primary bands, the album of Donelly's material never happened though she went on to have great success with her new project, Belly. Here's a video from the Safari EP which was released in between Pod and the second Breeders album, titled Last Splash. This was the last music to feature Donelly and just as Kelley Deal was brought into the band.

Monday, March 17, 2008

What to Watch | Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show

by Steve Pick

I spent much of my spare time this weekend watching the essential DVD set, The Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show. It's hard to believe there was a time when television was so casually magnificent. Live musical performances, with mistakes and heart-felt beauty, were the order of the day. A smorgasbord of brilliant guest-stars, from Neil Young to Merle Haggard, from Derek and the Dominos to Maybelle Carter, from Ray Charles to Ray Price, were given the chance to appear on one of the top-rated shows of the day.

I could have lived without the sanctimonious scripted commentary which acted as though the Johnny Cash Show existed in some sort of a vacuum. The Smothers Brothers and Tom Jones had shows either before or during the same time period which brought in musical performers from a wide variety of genres, too. I'm not trying to ignore the priceless eclecticism and wonderful taste with which Cash booked guests, but to pretend that this show changed American life in ways that weren't already part of the zeitgeist (or that it had any kind of lasting effect once it was cancelled) is just disingenuous.

But, that's the only complaint I've got about this set. With the exception of a goofy Roy Clark medley, and the less-than-brilliant Statler Brothers hit "Flowers on the Wall," I pretty much loved everything included here. Heck, even the ridiculous "Boy Named Sue" gained a bit of gravitas from the sheer enjoyment Cash had in performing it.

The DVDs are filled with little special moments. The tender, loving, and funny interactions between Cash and his wife June Carter; the warm camaraderie between Cash and his one-time roommate Waylon Jennings; the genuine surprise and joy when Hank Williams, Jr. gave Cash a gift of a pistol that had belonged to his father; the look of respect and giddiness on Eric Clapton's face when he played and sang "Matchbox" alongside originator Carl Perkins and Cash; the laughter on Ray Charles' face when he did an impromptu verse of "I Walk the Line" with Cash alongside him; the jokes between old Sun labelmates Cash and Roy Orbison.

If you like popular music, if you like folk music, if you like country music, you need to see this stuff. You can buy a single disc version of it, but all you're gonna want is more if you do that. Heck, the two disc version, clocking in at more than four hours, left me realizing there are 54 unissued hours left of this series.

Here's a teaser to get you started, as Johnny Cash sits with the amazing Louis Armstrong (one year before he died) to recreate Armstrong's session with Jimmie Rodgers at the dawn of country music recorded history.

Friday, March 14, 2008

X plays Pop's Monday night!

by Jen Eide

What can one say about X that hasn't already been said before? They are equally as important to the punk rock legacy as The Clash, but while The Clash drew influence from the burgeoning reggae and ska scenes in England, X always had a love for rockabilly and old-school American country music. So it comes as no surprise that they've gained an additional following among the former-classic-rockers-turned-Americana fans. Well, actually, it does come as a bit of a surprise, since I'm sure that this segment of the audience loathed punk rock in its heyday, just as I--as a young punk--felt like I had to renounce all the great dance music--like Chic and Blondie--that I had been listening to just a few years before. Fortunately, time and distance heals all musical chasms. Or most of them, at least.

X is billing this as their 31st Anniversary tour. These seasoned road warriors still have the chemistry and intensity that made their live performances so exciting back in the 1980's. Exene has always been a spectacularly charismatic performer. Check out this video for "Because I Do," from 1982's morose and poetic Under The Big Black Sun. This video is shot in black and white and has the look of 1920's silent films. Exene is not only quite adept at mimicking the acting in those old melodramas, but her overly exaggerated punk makeup actually matches the style of that era quite well.

X plays Monday, March 17th at Pop's in Sauget, IL. Doors at 7 PM. Be there and buy me a drink while you're at it.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Links You Should Enjoy

by Steve Pick

Hey, if you've ever wanted solid evidence of the way IQ tests are designed to ally yourself with specific cultural norms, check out this music intelligence test. It's quick and easy to take, probably a lot easier than your SAT's, but I pretty much guarantee there will be a couple questions that will make you scream at your computer that you couldn't possibly care less about the answer. And, I guarantee that the ones you scream about will be different from the ones I screamed about or the ones that any other random person will scream about. Post your scores in the comments. We want to hear from you.

I love top ten lists when they're really creative, and this examination of ten titanically loony love song lyrics makes the top ten of my fave top ten lists of all time.

It almost wouldn't be a link list if we didn't point you in the direction of Carrie Brownstein's blog over at NPR, Monitor Mix. She's at South By Southwest this week, as is Euclid owner Joe Schwab. We're thinking they're probably seeing different bands, but you never know.

I thought I was the only fan who truly loved the album Earthling by David Bowie, but it turns out that for at least one thoughtful young person, there's more to the last decade plus of the Thin White Duke than many people have discovered.

Joe Schwab and I share a great love for the long lost game show "I've Got a Secret," but I had no idea the show was so hip as to have brought John Cale on board as a guest back before he was in the Velvet Underground. Watch this clip and marvel:

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.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I Saw Holy Fuck at the Bluebird Last Night

By Jack Probst

Last night electro-jammers Holy Fuck slammed The Bluebird with a heavy dose of their lo-fi Casio rock. Don’t let the name fool you; Holy Fuck are almost entirely instrumental and none of their songs contain any sort of profanity. This band prides itself on crafting electronic music without the use of laptops or prerecorded backing tracks. Their main weapons consist of various old toy keyboards hooked up through effects pedals. It’s incredible to see a band use many of the same Casio keyboards that I have sitting in my basement to create such a huge sound. But not to be forgotten is the drum & bass players, who create the backdrop for these big blips and buzzes to follow. Their new album, LP, is an amazing collection of songs all put together while on tour. But Holy Fuck is a band that really needs to be experienced live.

Take a listen over at the Holy Fuck MySpace page. I suggest checking out "Lovely Allen" or "Royal Gregory" to get the feel of the Holy Fuck sound.

Here are a few pictures I snapped:




What's Playing | McCoy Tyner - The Real McCoy

by Steve Pick

If you listen to KWMU (or, for all I know, any of the other virtually interchangeable NPR stations around the country), you’ve heard “Passion Dance,” at least the introduction. It’s played all the time as a music bed between shows. Joe Henderson’s tenor sax and McCoy Tyner’s delicious right hand dance the melody as Ron Carter holds down the rhythmic pulse and Elvin Jones taps his cymbals. It’s an impossibly catchy, if complexly twisted little tune, one of the all-time greatest jazz pieces.

I’ve been throwing on The Real McCoy, Tyner’s 1967 masterpiece, every week or two lately. Part of it is to hear the joy of “Passion Dance,” and part of it is to reach the spiritual center of “Search For Peace.” The rest is to simply enjoy the brilliance of this band at work. Only a couple years after leaving the John Coltrane Quartet, Tyner and Jones are still bringing the roiling intensity of that classic group, but with a more accessible ear for melody. Not that I don’t love the wild heights of late Trane, but it’s very enjoyable to hear these guys play without having to worry I’m driving other people crazy at the same time.

To my ears, Joe Henderson has never sounded better than he did on this record. His tone has always been dry, and his imagination has always been refined, but somehow, allied with Tyner’s sparkling melodies and churning rhythms, Henderson comes off more emotionally resonant than he usually does. Something worked right on this session – all four players are perfectly attuned to each other, achieving that level of musical nirvana beyond the merely great we hear so often from these guys.

Here’s a much later union between McCoy and Joe that shows these guys really should have made more records together:

Saturday, March 8, 2008

New Stephin Merritt Song

by Steve Pick

We're not endorsing any particular brand of gum (though, I gotta admit, I do rely on Eclipse for those times when I need to do some close talking after I've had a Caesar Salad). We just thought it was too wild to suddenly see the singer/songwriter for the Magnetic Fields (which Jen, Jack, Darren and I all told you about a couple weeks back) has come up with his own original jingle for chewing gum.

1980's Music Video Binge

By Jen Eide

I've had these two tunes stuck in my head almost unrelentlessly lately. Now I can foist them upon your eyes and ears so that they can get stuck in your head as well.

Remember in the early 80's when "New Wave" was a catch-all genre for just about everything coming out of the industry that was not, well, classic rock or disco? The Specials were--for many of us--our introduction to ska, despite the fact that we did not know what that was at the time. This song is from their first album, titled The Specials.

The Specials "Message To You Rudy" London-by-way-of-Jamacia.

My friend Cristine contends that Chrissie Hynde was the worst dressed rock star of the '80's. There was a period just after the album Learning To Crawl was released when she was wearing clothes that looked a lot like she was someone's mom...if you had a mom that was hot. This song is from the album Pretenders II--a time before fashion crimes were committed--and has the original band featuring James Honeyman-Scott on guitar and Pete Farndon on bass. The reissue of Pretenders II features a second disc with a quality recording of a show they performed in Santa Monica in 1981.

The Pretenders "Message Of Love" London-by-way-of-Akron.

Click here for more of the 1980's music video binge.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Blonde Redhead vs. My Bloody Valentine

By Jen Eide

I can only think of a handful of albums that I played as often as Blonde Redhead's 23 last year. But occasionally when you sit down to write about one of your favorite albums you find yourself rendered completely inarticulate. Since 23 made so many Best of 2007 lists--including my own--I'm content to let it go unreviewed. Here's the video for the title track.

I will say that on more than one occasion a customer came up to the counter to ask what was playing and I accidentally replied "My Bloody Valentine." 23 does have the same kind of heavily processed sonic guitar wash as MBV's Loveless, and both bands also feature alternating male and female vocalists. Recently I've been wondering if my love of the Blonde Redhead album is merely rooted in nostalgia for the sound of MBV's 1991 post-punk classic--especially since I seem so completely unable to articulate just what it is that I like so much about 23. But 23 seems more substantial than just a throwback to me. The vocals are brighter, the drummer utilizes the hi-hat a bit more giving it a danceable feel, and it seems to be coming from a place that is not as psychologically dark as Loveless.

Having said that, it is ironic that the Blonde Redhead and MBV videos are so visually similar as well. Take a look--here is the video for MBV's "Soon."

In a previous post, Steve mentioned the 33 1/3 books that we carry. Each book explores an album in depth, and the one on MBV's Loveless is an interesting read, especially if you are interested in the details of how the music was recorded in the studio. The book also gives some insight into the genesis of the psychological darkness present on this album, which I alluded to above. Sleeplessness, abusive ex-partners, pressures from the band's label, and the slow breaking apart of a relationship all add to the murky brilliance that became Loveless.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

What's Playing | Hot Chip - Made In The Dark

by Jack Probst

I first heard Hot Chip on a suggestion from Darren. Coming on Strong is a great first effort, but the band took a big step forward on their sophomore album, The Warning. The thing that really sold me on Hot Chip was seeing them live at Lollapalooza 2006. They were probably the loudest band I heard that weekend, and the only one I was front row for. They’re just a bunch of nerdy looking Londoners, but they bring a together a mix of classic soul grooves, catchy techno-pop, and some hip hop sensibilities. After seeing that Hot Chip can rock the effing house made The Warning even better. On their new album Made in the Dark, the band is just improving on the sound they perfected on the last album.

Made in the Dark has enough bounce to get you out on the dance floor. It starts off strong and stays that way, but occasionally blends mellow songs in to give you a chance to breath. The band released “Shake a Fist” a few months early, and I found myself playing it on repeat for my whole 25 minute drive to and from Euclid. It’s a heavily funky track meant to be played at maximum volume. “Ready for the Floor” On “Wrestling” the band compares love to a wrestling match, checking off moves in the witty lyrics: “half nelson, full nelson, Willie Nelson... Willie Nelson.” Right now I constantly have “One Pure Thought” stuck in my head. “Hold On” defines the Hot Chip sound with lead vocalist Alexis Taylor singing “I’m only going to heaven if it feels like hell / I’m only going to heaven if it takes like caramel”. I’ve already decided this record will make my top 10 of 2008.

Check out the amazing video for “Ready for the Floor”:

And be sure to sample a few tracks on Hot Chip’s MySpace page.