I ran across some random post on tumblr the other day where some kids were calling RSD “Rookie Record Collector Day” and complaining about long lines and having to compete with other customers to get their hands on exclusives. While I’ll admit that there is a bit of that and that really every payday should also be “Record Store Day”, these kids are kind of missing the point. RSD is a symbol or a celebration of a beautiful pastime that is endangered of being gone (or at least once was, and RSD has helped to achieve the goal of keeping these places alive). It’s a rallying day for those of us who do frequent these brick and mortar places on a regular basis, and yes, it might be for some - the first time they walk into a record shop and make their first steps toward record collecting or realizing the importance of supporting a local business. I realize that with every good thing that grows comes the pitfalls or the negative side effects. I wasn’t thrilled about standing outside for over an hour to walk into a place I normally just stroll right into. Try to remember: Record Store Day isn’t about you. It’s about these local businesses that are beacons of culture and employ real people who are passionate about something.
(I posted this on facebook, after reading a link shared on Record Store Day’s facebook timeline. http://www.facebook.com/RecordStoreDay)
I stopped posting on this tumblr sometime in mid October and somehow the readership of this thing continues to grow. I’ve often wanted to pick back up with P&R in some fashion (definitely not the draining daily frequency I started with) but never found the energy (or time, really). I may still do so at some point… but I haven’t decided how… and the format may change or migrate elsewhere.
Apologies to those who were waiting for more records to be posted or had asked questions that never went answered. I still intend to answer them at some point. One reader had asked who some of my favorite album cover designers were and that’s actually the first question I will at some point be sharing the answer to.
For now though, I thought I would share my favorite records of the year. As I have done before when compiling this sort of list, I will make no claim as to any sort of efficiency as a music critic. The list that follows is more of a “personal favorite” nature as opposed to what I deem a competitive order of the most critically viable recordings.
Enough babble… here they are. Oh! I just said that these were not to be listed in any particular order… but there’s a small white lie in that disclaimer: The first and second records of the list definitely take the honor of being true 1st and 2nd favorites of the year… I had intended the whole list to go that route but once I had plotted out number 3 and 4 I realized that everything that followed was sort of loved equally.
15. Deleted Arrows - The Body As A Wasteland
Not technically released on vinyl yet (though it is rumored as in the works for 2013) this band comes from the ruins of the underrated Cancer Conspiracy. A juicy steak of tasteful prog for the new millennium.
14. AU - Both Lights
I really like the Home Tapes label, they put out some quality stuff and this is no exception. Both Lights opens with a manic instrumental that reminds me a tad of Marnie Stern but then takes a left turn into a off-kilter pop expanse.
13. Stagnant Pools - Temporary Room
I saw this band open for David Bazan recently and they impressed me very much. The choice to further investigate was solidified when I realized that I had heard them on a mix a friend made and written them down as a band I’d like to hear more from. While their sound takes a huge cue from a lot of shoegaze type stuff of the past, I’m curious to hear them progress - quite a young band with a lot of potential on their first release.
12. Damien Jurado - Maraqopa
I’ve only allowed myself to be a casual fan of Mr. Jurado. I liked Waters Ave S. and Rehearsals for Departure and I really liked I Break Chairs. But I never really became a huge fan and sort of stopped paying attention to him. After two friends whom I greatly respect raved about this album, I decided to give this a listen. I’m glad for that as this record exudes a psychedelic 60’s pop record made for modern times kind of vibe.
11. The Men - Open Your Heart
Open Your Heart is a bit of a curveball when you consider the band’s previous material and the harsh post-punk territory it predominantly mined. But this record here is just a straight up fun dirty rock and roll record with a bit unusual flair peppered throughout.
10. Dirty Three - Towards The Low Sun
An early favorite during the year. I was wooed by first single “Rising Below.” It was heavy, yearning music that pulled at the heart strings and the trio of violin, guitar and drums was a fresh break from whatever I was listening to at the time.
09. Retisonic - Robots Fucking
Wow. Jason Farrell brings his band Retisonic seemingly back from the dead and puts out the best thing any band of his has ever done. Maybe. But it’s “that” good. Especially when many consider this particular breed of DC post punk influenced rock to be long out of vogue.
08. Balmorhea - Stranger
I was anticipating this one for sure. But somewhere on this record, in addition to continuing their already excellent craft, the band channel the ghost of sorely-missed The Six Parts Seven on a few numbers. Beautiful music, indeed.
07. Maserati - Maserati VII
THIS is more like it. The band’s last effort felt like it was missing something… even though that record included the late Jerry Fuchs, this new record feels super-charged and new skin-pounder M. Albanese respectfully takes up the reigns - especially in the live setting as evidenced by the band’s record release show here in Atlanta.
06. The Sea and Cake - Runner
If you want to know how to be a band, last over twenty years and still release of batch of adventurous, fresh sounding tunes while remaning true to thyself - look no further. This arrived perfectly timed with the beginning of fall.
05. Beach House - Bloom
Another example of a band that I only casually flirted with on previous releases but with Bloom I found myself going back again and again and highly appreciated every ether-soaked note to be found within its confines.
04. The Evens - The Odds
Ever the Ian McKaye fan, I immediately LIKED The Evens but never loved them until now. This record represents their best music created to date and became an instant favorite. I still want Fugazi to tour just one more time and maybe even do another record. One can hope.
03.Disappears - Pre-Language
I’m seeing a trend here. 2012 may just have been the year every band that was creating decent music released great music. Chicago’s Disappears didn’t necessarily make huge stylistic changes or anything… they just brought their A game to the studio… improved vocals, bigger hooks and twice the swagger as their last LP.
02. Godspeed You! Black Emporer - Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
The year’s most pleasant surprise and perhaps another example of a band bringing back an old “trend” and showing the music world that it had more relevancy than anyone else would admit. “We Drift Like Worried Fire” could possibly be one of the band’s most beautiful tracks. There’s a section at about the 5:25 mark where the stringed instruments positively induce chills. ‘not to cheaply describe… but there’s an otherworldly feeling similar to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. What I mean by this is that what you are hearing seems somewhat alien, yet instantly gorgeous and it plays with your head in the most pleasant way.
01. The Life and Times - No One Loves You Like I Do
I predicted immediately upon its release that this would be my favorite record of the year. In the back of my head, I thought that surely some upset would occur and some ridiculously great album would unseat my instant obsession with this album. While GY!BE’s new album came close, this remained in the number one spot for me. Perhaps it had something to the band allowing me to design and screen print a poster for their show here in Atlanta in support of the record - and therefore creating a larger experience and memory surrounding the record… but, no… the overall statement and craft delivered on this full length release was just what I was hoping for from the band and more. A healthy slab of the kind of rock Allen Epley has been expertly crafting for years now, coupled with his intimate look at the themes of love and obsession, make for an arresting experience. But the challenge lies in the feat of an attention span most are unwilling to lend to music these days. The reward comes in the required patience and the attention to detail.
If you’ve read this far, Thanks to you.
There are some records left off here that barely missed the cut and a few that I found to be sort of disappointing.
There are a lot of records on the horizon for 2013 that I’m excited about. Off the top of my head they are:
Yo La Tengo
My Bloody Valentine (although that was supposed to arrive this year, no?)
The Besnard Lakes
Mogwai (Les Revenants Soundtrack)
Eric & Magill
Do Make Say Think
My girlfriend bought me the new Yo La Tengo biography for Christmas… I HIGHLY recommend it. Great read so far.
Gosh… favorite shows of 2012? Hard to say… I’m getting old and can’t remember all that I went to. The Shellac show I saw in Chicago comes to mind… the GY!BE show… what else…? Obviously The Life and Times at Drunken Unicorn in March.
'til next time.
Release Date: 2000, October 9
Let the posting of GYBE! records continue. This was actually my formal introduction to the band back around the time of it’s release. It also reminds of a friend’s apartment back in Chicago. It seemed like I making several discoveries and having many conversations about music in general in that apartment. I’m not even sure I was in that apartment when I first heard it… but I remember having several conversations about it with various people in that Uptown apartment. This release is considered by many as GY!BE’s masterpiece and for the most part it’s true, save that I hate so easily giving away that distinction because I feel that everything they have released is essential in some way or another. But I’m sure this could easily be called their most ambitious release - even though there are only four tracks, those tracks contain several movements and only one of the clocks in at less than 20-some minutes. In contrast to the release I posted about yesterday, there are definitely moments here that feel like the intent behind them are “joyful” (however still augmented by a sort of apocalyptic filter). This particular album cover is also their most iconic. Not only of their own work, but also of early 2000’s indie rock, of instrumental music and more. Beautifully screen-printed on to chipboard, holding it is like being introduced to the band’s music. You kind of get your first impression of it, but then feeling the tactile nature of the paper stock and the printing technique you begin to digest the individual textures that contribute to the whole. Open this sucker up and there is still plenty more to feast your eyes upon, illustrations, photos and hand-scrawled notes and diagrams on the wax labels galore. Although Lift Your Skinny Fists…, like the band through the years, still maintains a bit of mystery (which could very well contribute to why they are so great).
Released:1999, March 8
You knew it was entirely inevitable that I would start posting a bunch of GY!BE records after expressing just how much I had enjoyed their recent show in Atlanta and the impact that their new recording has already left on me. This 2 song EP contains the more brooding nature of Godspeed’s music (I know, I know… you’re thinking when is their music not brooding?). But if you listen closely to what they do and consider a recent interview, the band are definitely capable of more “uplifting” moments. Second track “Blaise Bailey Finnegan III” is the more compelling track as the spoken samples provide interesting narrative that gives way to the band really opening up and exploding in the final third of the song. The packaging for the release is gorgeous and makes excellent use of some foil stamping. Perhaps the inclusion of a passage from Jeremiah and the hebrew words for “waste and void” lend to the ominous bent of this particular release.
Released: 2006, February 8
Label: CarPark / Geographic North (2009 Vinyl)
I’ve almost posted this record several times… but then I had get all weird about it and force myself to wait for the appropriate month. To be honest the music contained within pretty much dictates that. The album is called October Language for a reason. Beginning with “I Never Lose. Never Really” the music creeps in like blissful fall weather until it rises up to a rumble and presses the full weight of its presence on to the listener. It’s the kind of stuff that could soundtrack the most profound of moments in a film - it’s everything you’ve ever felt bubbling up to the surface until those thoughts, every single thing you’ve ever felt, can no longer be contained and simultaneously raise their voice to be heard. Once you’ve been full enveloped in that moment… the song fades away like the fog of a brisk fall morning. This sort of feeling prevails throughout the entirety of this full length. Songs seem to just float in the air, almost formless, but then there are definitely notes even melodies that can be clearly picked out. It’s seems like something you might listen to if you were on the ultimate downer, but once you look beyond the face value of a casual listen, there’s plenty to get excited about. Aside from the opening track being so perfect, there’s also the gorgeous title track and “Who Told You This Room Exists?” (owing a debt to both MBV and Basinski?) which serve as standouts. The record’s cover also achieves the feat of obscuring the immediately discernable. The distressing and fading of the photograph expresses the feeling of passing time and the onset of seasons that are hinted at in the music.
Color: Transparent Green
Released: 2012, September 18
Label: Thrill Jockey
The Sea and Cake have been around for some time now, and I definitely have older records of theirs I could be writing about (although, they are extremely recent additions to my collection). But this new record is really something. I’ve stated this elsewhere, but Runner is the perfect collection of feel good jams that has arrived just in time for fall weather. Adopting a looser feel (as if that were even possible for a band already pretty breezy in their approach) and experimenting a bit more with electronic textures than they were previously known to, the band seem to have caught a second wind. I’m no connoisseur of their previous material, but this record feels instantly classic and off hand comes across as some of their most essential efforts. From the word “go” the good vibes are apparent. Opener “On and On” is a clear indication that the band have prepared a wonderful journey for the listener. “The Invitations” moves into a pastoral care-free jam in it’s second movement before lightly fluttering away and giving way to the more charged up “Skyscraper.” “New Patterns” also transitions well into a blissful instrumental passage where textures a bit new to the bands palette layer nicely on op of each other. Even the cover sports a colorful scene of a playground, where the band invite you to shed burdens and enjoy some good times. Thrill Jockey issued this pressing on a wonderful transparent bright green which picks up on some of the colors less prominent than the mostly blue scene. I usually detest heavy gloss on album sleeves, but it seems to work for some of the bands featured on that legendary Chicago label.
Finally back to posting. I’m going to pick back up with today’s date and, hopefully tonight, start backdating on the days I missed.
'kinda feels like I failed on the whole project. The move (and putting my life back together after the fact) ended up being more time consuming than I anticipated. I thought I'd miss a day or two and catch up… but it's been over a week. Ah well. It would be a bigger failure if I gave up altogether and stopped posting before finishing out the year.
Released: 2012, October 15
A tour from GY!BE in 2012 would have been enough. But then the ensemble went and blessed us with the announcement of a new recording. A recording that, for fans able to see them on said tour (or at least the first few dates), was available before the world at large knew it existed in completed form. So here it is - almost ten years to the date of their last recorded output - and it’s as if the band have not missed a beat. If you want to get technical, two of the compostions here are reportedly based off of music heard live as far back as 2003. Still… the music on Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! kicks the ass of any band that has ever even loosely attributed GY!BE as an influence within those past ten years. There seems no better time for the sometimes politically charged music of theirs to resurface. And bits of the projections from their recent live sets have reflected this. (Lest you think the band have no sense of humor, look to the inscriptions scratched into the 7” with the drone pieces that leads you here.) I am definitely guilty of not realizing how much I have missed Godspeed until seeing them three nights ago and playing this record non-stop since. I absolutely cannot get enough of the third track on here, “We Drift Like Worried Fire.” It could possibly be one of the band’s most beautiful tracks. There’s a section at about the 5:25 mark where the stringed instruments positively induce chills. ‘not to cheaply describe… but there’s an otherworldly feeling similar to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. What I mean by this is that what you are hearing seems somewhat alien, yet instantly gorgeous and it plays with your head in the most pleasant way. Listen, this might sound cheesy - but we all love music and realize it does this for us - but there’s something kind of instantly classic about this track and it will soundtrack memories to come or even vaguely remind you fond memories prior to the moment you are hearing it. In light of all this, I’ve become sort of obsessed with the band. The cover of this record employs a grainy, hazy sort of photograph that works well for the music, but I kind of miss some of the printing techniques the band employed for their first three releases (although, the back cover’s typography does receive a hit of spot varnish). That doesn’t mean the band have necessarily skimped on packaging though… the LP jacket and inner fold-out sleeve are decked out with eye-filling artwork. Here’s hoping we hear more from the band soon, as some newer material was played during this current tour of theirs.