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Sunday, February 23, 2014

February Record a Day (Third Week)

February 17th: An Acoustic Album
Andres Segovia, A Bach Recital (pic)
Segovia is a name I've heard in passing over the years. But I didn't really understand the beauty of his playing until I watched a clip in Sound City. John Fogerty talks about the sound quality and the passion of Segovia's playing, and I couldn't help notice. I found this a little over a month ago. The sound quality is not great, but the playing is top notch.
February 18th: A Split-EP
Minus the Bear/The City on Film (pic)
Bob Nanna gave me this at a show he played at Beat Kitchen in Chicago. I didn't have a record player at the time, so I initially politely declined. Thankfully I wised up, took it, and agreed to find some record to play it on.
February 19th: White Vinyl
Everyone Everywhere, self-titled (pic)
There are times when you're lucky to be online at the right time. This fantastic Philly band was selling a very limited number of their second record at a name-your-price deal. I sent them fifteen dollars and got this about a month later. Totally beautiful record.

February 20th: A Favorite Record
Tom Waits, Small Change (pic)
Hands down, my favorite Tom Waits album. So much beauty, so much sadness. Just a classic. However, somehow, after the first play of my 180-gram reissue, a skip developed on "I Wish I Was In New Orleans." Last year, I found an original Asylum pressing of this, along with Foreign Affairs. While the album was dusty, there are no skips on it.
February 21st: A Compilation
The Four Tops, Anthology (pic)
Found this brand new at the wonderful Mad World Records in Denton. Though I have many of these songs on CD, I don't have the full version of "MacArthur Park." At $8 for a 2-LP set, I couldn't say no.
February 22nd: Clear-colored Vinyl
Certain People I Know, self-titled (pic)
This band features Bob and Damon from Braid and Hey Mercedes. I have never seen them play, but I have enjoyed this record despite listening to it only a couple of times. I bought this at a house show in Denton last year where the owner of the label was selling all kinds of his label's products.

Monday, February 17, 2014

35

On Thursday of last week, I turned 35. Like almost every birthday since my 18th, I don't feel like a full-blown adult. Then again, I wasn't exactly sure what being an adult would feel like.

Not often, but occasionally in my teenage years, I wondered what being an adult was really like. I looked at adults around me and pondered things. Will I be taller than I am now? Will I be listening to Kenny G and Celine Dion? Will I be living by myself in a big empty place? 

I can't say there is one event or moment when I stopped being a youth and started being an adult. Becoming an uncle seven years ago was an indicator, but so was moving into my own apartment back in 1998. There are so many transitions in life; more than I would realize until later.

If you want a good indication on how much you've grown, talk with someone you haven't spoken to in a number of months or years. You generalize the main events, including obstacles that seemed huge and unable to get over. Some of those have been surpassed while you're still working on others. 

When I turned 34, there were a lot of question marks about what the year ahead looked like. There were some things that were not changing any time soon (love does do that to people, thankfully), but the job situation was very up in the air. I was freelance writing and still holding out for something full-time. Turning 35, I have two part-time jobs and two freelance writing gigs, all while still looking for the right fit with a full-time position. On the personal side, I live in a house with my girlfriend and our three dogs in a quiet and friendly neighborhood. We are quite happy living where we live. Each day is highly fulfilling, especially with the presence of our dogs.

While I continue to network and search for my next full-time job and ponder graduate school, I must not lose track of doing what I love to do. Writing is still a necessity, as is drumming, even if it's not done every single day. Doing improv and seeing rock shows are still a part of my life, serving as a healthy distraction and a chance to approach struggles in different ways. Being committed to a recovery program is also a major factor. 

At 35, I still get carded, but not as much as in previous years. I have a better idea of what I'd like to do in the immediate future, as well as what not to do. Focusing on making progress instead of buying into a myth called perfection, the journey is still going and I'm happy to be along for the ride.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

February Record a Day (Second Week)

February 10th: Any 10-inch Record
face to face, Econo-Live (pic)
Back when I collected singles, I came upon this through a mailorder catalog. It's a very rare and rough documentation of face to face before they recorded their self-titled third album. There are slightly different arrangements of songs that wound up on the album. Think of it as a glimpse of the album to come.

February 11th: Collection of an Artist
Jimi Hendrix, Are You ExperiencedAxis: Bold as LoveElectric Ladyland (pic)
I don't have many complete collections of an artist on vinyl. Showcasing the three proper albums that Hendrix released while he was alive, this is one of the exceptions. My former housemate Matt gave me these when he moved out last summer. They're still in good shape, and the music is still out of this world.

February 12th: Artist That Begins with the Letter 'L'
Lifetime, Hello BastardsJersey's Best Dancers (pic)
I don't often double-dip when it comes to albums I already have on CD and on my computer, but there are certain classic records that deserve to be owned on vinyl. Not only are the songs great on Lifetime's two proper albums on Jade Tree; the artwork is incredible, too. 

February 13th: Album from High School
face to face/Horace Pinker split 7-inch (pic)
I stretched this one a bit. I didn't collect any 12-inch vinyl in high school. In the summer/fall between high school and college, I started collecting a lot of singles by punk bands. Since I had to have any and all face to face vinyl, I came upon this. Horace Pinker ended being the big surprise for me. "Letter Never Sent" is still one of my favorite songs they've done.

February 14th: Red or Pink Record
Into It. Over It, Proper (pic
Truth is, until a few weeks ago, my copy of this record was sealed. I bought Proper and Intersections directly from Evan when he opened for Saves the Day at Trees. Seeing the pinkish/red color, I thought it was apropos for Valentine's Day.

February 15th: An Artist's Best Album
Meat Loaf, Bat Out of Hell (pic)
I took an easy route with this one. The first Meat Loaf record is still amazing to me. It's the template and yardstick for every record Meat has done since. 

February 16th: Favorite Dollar Bin Find
Eric Carmen, self-titled (pic
I have found many great records in decent shape underneath the racks at Half Price Books and Mad World Records. This Eric Carmen record is very special to me because it marked the beginning of me collecting 12-inches. I had that Pet Shop Boys 12-inch from elementary school and I had a few that I reviewed for Punk Planet, but this one started the trend that I am on now. I found it on one of my many shopping trips with Matt. I asked if he was interested in it and he passed. For a dollar, I couldn't pass it up. Thus Eric Carmen's debut became my gateway drug. 

Sunday, February 09, 2014

February Record a Day (First Week)

This month, I've decided to take on an enjoyable hashtag thread on Instagram called February Record A Day. Basically, it's posting pictures from your vinyl LP collection every day of the month, but it's not a random sampling. There are "rules" for each day of the month, like a record that's on marbled swirl or a box set or a "white whale" record you looked high and low for.

As much as I enjoy social media like Instagram, I do miss writing longer blog pieces on a regular basis. In an attempt to get back into this, I'd like to share some stories about each record I post -- and I hope to post about every record I picture this month.

February 1st: "Oldest Record You Own"
Pet Shop Boys, Actually (pic)
Technically, this is not the "oldest" LP I own. I have some Frank Sinatra records and various re-presses of older albums. This Pet Shop Boys record has been in my collection the longest. I got this back in 1988 at the Sam Goody in the Deerbrook Mall. I believe it was a case of, didn't have the CD so I got the vinyl instead. This was the only 12-inch that I owned for a couple of decades, as I did not acquire another 12-inch until college.

February 2nd: "Marbled Color Album"
Cave-In, Until Your Heart Stops (pic)
Got this last year for Record Store Day at CD Source. It was not cheap and there was no download code (First World Problems, Vinyl Edition), but I am happy to have it. I know more of Cave-In's work after this record (aka, when Stephen Brodsky sang more than screamed) and I haven't listened to Until Your Heart Stops very much. Maybe this is a reminder I should change that. 

February 3rd: "Album Released in 2014"
various (pic)
I have yet to pick up an LP that was released this year. I have been to Half Price Books a few times, and three of these were picked up said chain store. I already have digital versions of the Sloan record and the Split Enz best-of, but I decided to pick them up for extremely specific reasons. I love Sloan and I found the record sealed for only $5. With the Split Enz record, the digital version does not sound very strong as it wasn't remastered. I don't have to worry about remastering for vinyl, and it's great to have fuller-sounding versions of "History Never Repeats" and "Six Months in a Leaky Boat."

The Dwight Twilley record was, more or less, an impulse buy. I had seen You're Next a few nights before I went to the store and I instantly fell in love with Dwight's "Looking for the Magic," as it is played frequently in the film. I called 80s power pop expert Noel Murray about this record, asking him if I would like it. (Noel has written about Dwight before but didn't touch on Jungle) He wasn't a big fan of the record, but he recommended it, as a $3 purchase is a small risk. Giving the record a spin, it has some of the worst of mid-80s radio rock production values (make those drums and guitars sound as treble-y as possible!) but the tunes are still catchy. Dwight has a knack for taking country and rockabilly and adding in a Beatles tinge. Reminds me of George Harrison and Rick Springfield for various reasons.

And the KVIL Christmas record was a gag gift from a co-worker of mine named Julie. Her daughter loves vinyl and she found this record on a clearance shelf. I like a lot of Christmas music and KVIL was an Dallas-area radio institution in the 80s. With its morning show host being someone I later worked with (and I have some rather amusing stories about him), this record is a reminder of how things were done in the 80s. Choral and pop arrangements of Christmas standards, done by local artists? I'll give it a listen.

February 4th: "Album From a Local Band"
True Widow, As High As the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth (pic)
I picked this up at the record release show at the Double Wide. I think this is the first double-LP that I own where the music is only on three sides. 

February 5th: "Boxset"
Braid, Movie Music (pic
I already had this on CD, but when I found a barely-played copy for only $14, I figured it was OK for a double-dip.

February 6th: "Record That is a Re-press"
Braid, Frame and Canvas (pic
Once again, had this on CD, but when it was re-pressed for Record Store Day 2013, I double-dipped. 

February 7th: "Any 7-inch"
Jimmy Eat World/Blueprint split 7-inch (pic)
Interesting story on this one. When I was in college, I collected a lot of 7-inches. I'd get into a band and find out there were songs on 7-inches that weren't on any other format. I had to know what face to face did for Blondie's "One Way or Another" and songs not found on H2O's first record. You know, stuff that seems vital when you're at such an impressionable age. 

Getting into Jimmy Eat World in spring 1998, I quickly became obsessed with them. When I heard them play songs that were only on 7-inches, I tried to get as many as I could. I wasn't going to pay high prices for out-of-print 7-inches on eBay, but I would pick one up at a show or mail-order. 

I bought this Jimmy Eat World split release with Blueprint when I saw Jimmy Eat World and At the Drive-In play at Rubber Gloves in Denton, I asked Jim Adkins to sign my copy. He obliged and I now had a record I was hesitant to ever take out of the sleeve. 

That said, not knowing how sensitive vinyl is to heat, this 7-inch warped when I left it in my car one summer afternoon in Lubbock. Ever since then, I rarely leave vinyl in my car for more than an hour. 

February 8th: "A 'White Whale' Album"
Tom Waits, Blue Valentine (pic
It's pretty easy to find Tom Waits' stuff on vinyl, but you have to be ready for some sticker shock. His first four albums were reissued on 180-gram vinyl by Rhino a few years ago, but good lord are they pricey. Sorry, but $30 is way too much for any individual album. Luckily, Half Price Books periodically has great sales and I have been fortunate to pick up some of Waits' stuff for relatively cheap. 

Unbeknownst to me, Blue Valentine (which features one of my all-time favorites, "Kentucky Ave") was reissued in Europe. Randomly finding a sealed copy in a "new arrivals" bin (and armed with a 50-percent-off coupon), I got this for $15. 

February 9th: "An Artist's Solo Album"
Peter Gabriel, So (pic
I often see Gabriel's solo records in stores. Usually, it's the first four self-titled records he put out after leaving Genesis. I still haven't picked those up, but I have picked up So mainly because of "In Your Eyes."

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

What Can We Do

Superchunk is a band that thankfully doesn't quit. Though they took a number of years off between Here's to Shutting Up and Majesty Shredding, I was happy to see them back with a new album last year called I Hate Music. Given the opportunity to talk with longtime guitarist Jim Wilbur as the band heads back to Dallas to play Trees, I couldn't help ask a few questions I've always wanted to ask a member of the band.

We touched on many things about the band and the label they've had for all these years: Merge Records.



The first time I saw Superchunk’s name in print, it was in a book called Rolling Stone’s Alt-Rock-A-Rama. You remember that book?
Oh yeah. I know where this is going, too.

You, Mac, and Jon had a list of the worst bathrooms in the country and Trees was one of them. Would you be happy to hear they’ve improved the bathroom in the last few years?
It was just me. We were all credited. I made that list. Our tour manager is from Denton and when I saw we were hitting Trees, I was like, “Oh no.” And he’s like, “Oh no, it’s been renovated since you were there.” I don’t even know the last time we were there. It was a long time ago.

I remember the show in Fort Worth at the Ridglea Theater where The Good Life opened, but I can’t remember the last Dallas show.
Dallas used to be a stop on every tour. There was a place called the Galaxy Club, which was horrendous.

You’ll be happy to know the place has closed and might never reopen.
Yeah, that was a memorable night. Our British soundman pissed in the garbage can backstage. Just before we were leaving, he wrote on the wall in large letters, “This place is not fit to suck the shit out of my ass.”

You knowing Jon [Wurster, drummer] for all these years, is it interesting to see he have such a presence on social media? The guy knows how to post funny stuff. It’s like this humor was bound to come in some form or fashion.
I don’t know. The weird thing about Jon is, he’s not talking a lot in person. It’s very internal. He’s not very gregarious. He’s not really outgoing. He’s cheerful, but he’s not constantly joking and riffing. I think a lot of times he’s keeping quiet, working up something he’s going to post on Facebook or Twitter. Jon is Jon. I’ve known him for over 20 years now, so I’m not surprised. He’s ambitious, too, and he’s a hard worker. He’s got all those followers on Twitter. I don’t do Twitter; I hear about that from my wife.

Seems like whenever he posts about KISS, it’s always hilarious.
Anything that is related to KISS is catnip for him.

Do you still have the tour itinerary for the Seam tour as a reminder of how bad things can get?
I carried that around for years. It disappeared at some point. Laura [Ballance] wanted to take a picture of it for the book [Our Noise] and I opened my wallet and it magically disappeared. It was getting pretty bare towards the end. I really did carry that around and I did pull it out when I was feeling miserable and it would cheer me up. Because I would think, “Thank God I am not on that fucking tour anymore.”

How has Jason [Narducy] worked out as a bassist? Has he helped the transition of playing with Laura for all those years and now it’s someone else.
Jason is really good at what he does. He’s very quick to learn and he’s really easy to get along with and he’s funny. It doesn’t feel weird that Laura is not there, to me. It’s like a boys’ club. Laura was more like the mom. She handled the money. We had a lot of fun. But it’s a different dynamic without her. She couldn’t be with guys all the time, so we’d bring a female T-shirt person. It’s not like we’re partying or womanizing, but the dynamic was more family-ish than rock band-ish. Now, there’s a little less stress and I don’t mean stress like bad stress. It’s just a bunch of guys being on the road. We would watch what we would say and be polite, but when we’d get back from tour, Laura’s husband would say, “You’re foul-mouthed.” And she’d say that she had been out with all these guys. She became one of the boys, to a degree.

I’ve traded brief messages with Mac and Jon over e-mail over the years and I was happy they responded. There was once a time that I asked Mac about Bobby Patterson and he responded in kind, even though Merge was very busy with Arcade Fire at the time. Knowing your background, it seems like if you were brought up in American hardcore, you responded to everyone that contacted you, no matter how busy you were.
We all came from hardcore. We were all hardcore kids and part of that is breaking down the areas and the ego of bands like Loverboy or Van Halen. We are fans of music and fans of bands. It didn’t have to be “us and them.” I guess that’s why we are more approachable. It was a principle to not have an ego. Mac is more of a fan of music than anyone I know. He’s also very generous. That’s just his personality. It’s genuine.

I keep thinking about Our Noise and how it seems like a great way of explaining how to do a long-term label. It’s like, do one release, you borrow money, you print up the single or tape, make the money back, borrow money and make another release.
I agree with you. I think it’s about having realistic expectations for what you do. Don’t try to accomplish more than what you can do. Before you’re ten years old, you have to be five years old. You can’t rush that.