Thursday, June 21, 2018

Kitchenware Classic

David's excellent Kitchenware compilation featured at the New Vinyl Villain today brings me to another single picked up just last week at a shop in Seattle. I have a real soft spot for those early records from the Newcastle label, and I can't ever seem to pass one up, even if, as is in this case, it's one I didn't really needed.

The 12" of Prefab Sprout's 1984 single "Couldn't Bear to Be Special" isn't any different from the version found on 'Swoon', and I already had the two B-sides (in the case of "Spinning Belinda" it has been a flip side on multiple singles), but it was just simply seeing these songs presented in a way my eyes had never visualized before that got me excited. I have always loved that 'Swoon' aesthetic. I didn't hesitate to buy it. In fact, before finding this 12", I didn't even know "Couldn't Bear to Be Special" ever was a single. Even now, as I type, I find myself looking at the cover and smiling. I'm still picking up Kitchenware records in 2018! Is there a better feeling than going into a shop and being surprised like that?

"Couldn't Bear to Be Special"
"Spinning Belinda"
"Donna Summer"

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Picture-Perfect Weekend

Sunday was Father's Day, and this dad couldn't have asked for a better couple of days. I went to a record store on Friday and headed to the ocean for the weekend. Heat. Finally. The mercury neared 90 degrees. Just the way I like it. On Saturday, the family took the ferry to the Olympic Peninsula for a hike along the Dungeness Spit. If you have never seen its majesty, here's an aerial view:
It may not look like it, but that's a 5.5-mile hike out to the lighthouse. That little white spec is the lighthouse, and it's funny to see the spit go quite far beyond the structure. The spit continues to grow 13 feet a year. It's the longest natural sand spit in the United States. Better check the tide tables, or the water just might swallow you up. On Sunday, we had a rare day when my boys were literally standing in snow at Hurricane Ridge in the morning and swimming in the Pacific by afternoon. It's quite a little hike down to Second Beach near LaPush, and you have to climb through an enormous pile of driftwood to get to the sand, but it's well worth the work. As you can see, seems most people are scared off by the terrain. The beach was nearly all ours.
Enough about my adventures. That's not why your're here. As I mentioned, I got the gift of time for Father's Day, and there is no better present, really. I stopped by a Seattle shop I hadn't been to in ages, and I hit the jackpot in the singles section. These days, I have a serious space problem in the music room, and I find myself looking at singles more and more because it's the one format where I still haven't quite exceeded capacity on the shelf. I'll get to the entire bounty in future posts, but here's one I picked up that can't wait.
For those of you who have The Jam's "Live! EP", particularly in the UK, this won't seem like such a big deal, but the American version of the 1983 double-album compilation 'Snap!' didn't come with this bonus 7", not even the first pressing, making it a rare find in this area of the world. The best part is I paid the price of a typical single in 2018 when, frankly, I would have forked out more. If you aren't familiar with the four songs, they were recorded in December 1982 at Wembley Arena. This is an era many fans from the early days don't particularly revere, but I don't apologize for digging the horns, backing vocals and organ. That might be because I discovered Paul Weller during the early days of the Style Council and worked backwards through his discography. Here are the two covers from side A. Hope you enjoy it.

Move on Up (Live)
Get Yourself Together (Live)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Indie Pop on the Pitch

No USA to root for in this World Cup, kicking off today in Russia, but there is just enough for me to hold my interest. I like to support the underdogs. Since Wales, our heroes from Euro 2016, didn't make the cut, I'll move my allegiance to Iceland this time around. More importantly, Eugene Levy as Woody Tobias, Jr. is still playing for the Red Devils, meaning I have to root for Marouane Fellaini and Belgium to go far. Then there's Croatia's horse-racing unis. Yep, that's just about all I've got.

Jimmy over at Matinée Recordings, however, is the real football fan over here, and I bet he and his kids will be glued to the tube the next month. To drum up excitement for the Cup, he has gathered five exclusive soccer-themed anthems from his international stable of indie-pop stars that make for a souvenir EP sure to bring you to your feet. Here's a quick look at the lineup in Matinée's words:

Australian stars Last Leaves kick things off with the splendid guitar pop classic "Golden Days To Come" with its call and response chorus, trumpets, and a choir of fanatics to cheer on the Socceroos. Swedish band Red Sleeping Beauty makes its Matinée debut with the glorious electric pop hit "Dressed In Yellow And Blue" featuring an infectious chorus about one life-changing goal in the summertime. Spanish duo the Royal Landscaping Society shows its support for La Furia Roja with the absolutely mesmerizing track "2010" recalling Spain's World Cup championship earlier this decade. English legends the Popguns deliver in spades with "Red White And Blue" posing the question "is it so unimaginable thinking we could win?" and using brilliant harmonies, furious guitars, cheering crowds, and handclaps to advance the English side to the next round. Finally, Brazilian popstars Pale Sunday break a six-year silence with the ace fuzz pop song "Dirt Pitch Superstars" in honor of their team's campaign for an unprecedented sixth World Cup victory.

Order your 'Official Matinée World Cup EP'. Now on with the matches.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Unearthing Early Mann Quite a Discovery

Let's wrap up this trio of posts on the genius of Jon Brion with his work as producer. I could pull out any number of albums from the shelf, and I was nearly tempted to choose something from Robyn Hitchcock or the Polyphonic Spree, but his influence was probably most felt on the early solo albums of Aimee Mann. Their relationship goes back to the waning days of 'Til Tuesday when Brion joined the band on guitar as a touring member. Brion co-wrote a couple of songs on Mann's 1993 solo debut, 'Whatever', and he also co-produced. It was a well-received album, and you could hear there was a lot more there than she had shown in the 'Til Tuesday days.

Brion was even more involved in 1995 followup 'I'm With Stupid'. He co-wrote four songs, including the two we are going to listen to today. He also played a myriad of instruments on the long player, including bass, harmonica, cello, drums, acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, percussion and backing vocals. I have always pictured the making of 'I'm With Stupid' being a blast. Several friends stopped by to help out, such as Juliana Hatfield, Bernard Butler, Neil Innes, future hubby Michael Penn, Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook.

Mann has never been a letdown through her nine solo albums, and she is touring with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit in my neck of the woods this September. I have never seen her perform in person, but this seems like the perfect time to right this wrong.

Choice in the Matter

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Brighter Days With the Grays

More from Jon Brion today, this time courtesy of very short-lived power-pop supergroup (in my mind, anyway) the Grays. For their lone album, 'Ro Sham Bo', songwriting duties were more or less split into thirds between Jason Falkner, Buddy Judge and Brion. Dan McCarroll played drums and co-wrote a tune. The 1994 long player for Epic was produced by Jack Joseph Puig. He worked on both Jellyfish albums and would produce Falkner's first solo album in '96, the must-have 'Presents Author Unknown.' 'Ro Sham Bo' should have been a smash. For most of the last quarter century, it hasn't even been in print.

You know all about where Falkner and Brion went from here, but Judge and McCarroll did just fine too. McCarroll was former president and head of A&R for Warner Bros. Records, and now he is at Amazon Music as global head of originals and artist relations. Judge worked his way up at Apple Music and is now a senior product manager. If I was a co-worker, I would incessantly question them about the Grays and their other bands. Judge was in the Springfields with Ric Menck and Paul Chastain during the Sarah years, for cryin' out loud! Here is my favorite Brion-penned song song from 'Ro Sham Bo'. You might want to turn this one up.

Same Thing

Thursday, June 7, 2018

'Meaningless' Music From Renaissance Man

I was watching Greta Gerwig's excellent coming-of-age movie 'Lady Bird' last night, and it got me thinking about how much I appreciate the film scores of Jon Brion, particularly on this movie and 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'. These days, Brion is probably known more for his film work and producing others, but I have taken a few albums off the shelf that feature Brion as power-pop star, and we'll listen to more of him next time, but let's start with his only solo album.

In the late '90s, Brion was signed to Lava Records, then an Atlantic entity, and 'Meaningless' was meant to be put out by them, but he was released from his contract after completion. Brion put out the album on his own in 2001, calling his label the tongue-in-cheek Straight to Cut-Out. This one-and-only catalog number from Straight to Cut-Out was .00001. Save for one song, Brion plays all of the instruments. That song is "Trouble", and check out this backing band for that one: Jim Keltner on drums, Benmont Tench on piano and Greg Leisz on pedal steel. His girlfriend at the time, the brilliant actress Mary Lynn Rajskub, provides backing vocals. If you feel like you've heard this one before, perhaps you have. Brion's late friend Elliott Smith used to like to cover it.

If you're a fan of Aimee Mann, Jason Falkner or Brendan Benson, you'll want to track down this album.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

I Tought I Taw a Postcard Tat

The family went to Portland this weekend. That meant a quick stop at Crossroads to visit my favorite record stall. Mrs. LTL and the boys waited in the car while I ran in for a quick perusal. About two minutes into my search, Mrs. LTL tapped me on the shoulder. "Uh-oh," I thought, thumbing through the records a bit faster, "my time must be up." Instead, she pointed to someone she had noticed through the window. "I think that woman has a Postcard Records tattoo," she said excitedly. "I'm going to go talk to her."

The woman seemed as shocked about running into someone who correctly identified the tattoo as we were discovering it. Turns out she and her husband own the very stall I have obsessed about on these pages all these years. Oh, and the husband has a matching Postcard tattoo to boot. Their mutual admiration of Postcard can be traced to one band... Josef K. Now that's what I call the backbone to a successful marriage! I can't tell you how exciting it is to know there are other Postcard obsessives in the Pacific Northwest. Obviously, I'm on a Josef K kick now. Let's listen to a favorite of mine from the band's final Peel Session, circa June 22, 1981.

The Missionary

Saturday, May 26, 2018

One That Got Away

As I was refiling several records in the letter G section, I came upon my very beat up copy of Al Green's 'Greatest Hits' and thought what a shame it was to have skipped. Sure, this is one of those scraping the surface collections, but this was a pivotal album in my youth and one that helped me stray into a genre much different than the punk, post-punk and new wave I was listening to at the time. Never mind if it was Orange Juice that brought me here. Point is, I got there, and it wasn't long before I had a whole mess o' soul. I skipped the good reverend because my vinyl is in sorry shape, but I present Green's music today via the 42-song double CD reissue I bought a few years ago to replace it. Thanks for everything, Mr. Green. It's been an education.

Tired of Being Alone
L-O-V-E Love

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter G, Part 16)

Today's selection will conclude this round of the letter G. For various reasons, I have skipped several favorites, including Game Theory, Grandaddy, Gene, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, the Granite Shore, the Goon Sax and Green on Red, to name but a few. All I can say is there is a method to the madness, and one of your favorites might have been omitted because it was a relatively new release or had already featured on these pages. I assure you just about everything I have will pop up here eventually. At any rate, I agree with our pal George this letter has been one of our more interesting stops so far. I especially enjoyed listening to Gang of Four again. It had been a long while, and I have been spinning it with regularity for weeks now.

Let's wrap things up with a rather rare vinyl format. Here in America, you could get the 2006 EP "From the Cliffs" by Guillemots as a double 10" with gatefold sleeve via Verve Records. I could be wrong, but I believe it's the only 2x10" in my entire collection. Everything I have heard by Guillemots has been good, and there have been some hits, but I don't believe Fyfe Dangerfield and his band ever eclipsed their first single, "Trains to Brazil". It's an old story, a group putting out their best straight out of the chute, and even if Guillemots had never put out another song, the band would have been immortal. It's that unforgettable. Dangerfield says "Trains to Brazil" is about appreciating life. Sounds good to me.

Trains to Brazil

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter G, Part 15)

This band takes me back to 1983. I first saw Guadalcanal Diary on MTV's 'Basement Tapes'. Although they didn't win, the video for "Watusi Radio" remained stuck in my brain until I picked it up on debut long player 'Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man' in 1984. The audio for that video clip was a live take of the song taken from a performance at 688 Club, a famous Atlanta spot from 1980-1986. Although the studio version was superb, nothing topped the video version. To this day, I'm still looking for a copy of that show!

There was so much to love about Guadalcanal Diary, but my infatuation with early R.E.M. had much to do with sticking with them through a rather disappointing follow-up album, 'Jamboree', in 1986. Guadalcanal Diary was often compared to their more popular neighbor during this period, but looking back I think it's a rather lazy connection having much more to do with geography than sound. Like many great bands in that era and locale, Guadalcanal Diary were briefly signed to the great Atlanta-based label DB Records, home to Pylon, Love Tractor, and the Swimming Pool Q's, to name a few, but it wasn't too long before Elektra came a callin' and snatched them up after 'Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man'.

My favorite of Guadalcanal Diary's four albums was (and still is) '2 x 4'. Critics and the public seemed to agree. Paste Magazine hailed it as the No. 64 album of the entire decade. The return of producer Don Dixon after the sophomore slump had more than a little bit to do with it. Dixon would return in 1989 for Guadalcanal Diary's final album, 'Flip-Flop', and the single 'Always Saturday' garnered a ton of plays on '120 Minutes'. Sales weren't exactly brisk, however, and the band would commit to family life and other projects shortly thereafter. In a nutshell, if you don't already have them, you should seek out all three of the Dixon-produced LPs. They were a real trip to rip from my vinyl collection today.

Watusi Rodeo (1984)
Trail of Tears (1984)
Litany (Life Goes On) (1987)
Always Saturday (1989)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter G, Part 14)

JC featured the Groovy Little Numbers in his Scottish songs series two months ago, and you can get a rundown of their second of two EPs the band released on legendary label 53 & 3rd over at his place. Here are the three songs from the first EP. I don't have the original 12". Rather, I have this on a comp Avalanche Records released in 1998 that covers both EPs. I'm picturing it with the BMX Bandits comp above, also from Avalanche, because I always listen to them together. If you're interested, here is a recap of the day I bought these two records at Avalanche in Edinburgh. One of the best days ever! As for the songs, Joe McAlinden wrote the first two. A-side "You Make My Head Explode" would be the band's only hit, peaking at No. 25 on the UK indie chart in early '88. Catherine Steven takes a turn on lead vocals with the closer, and I just can't resist Mairi Cameron's wonderful trumpet on this grittier version of the Association hit from 1967. Genius!

You Make My Head Explode
Hey! Hey!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter G, Part 13)

Better make this a quickie. As I mentioned yesterday, I'm on the clock with my Scritti Politti marathon. So many more from this letter, but I think I'll cap it at five more from G.

Goodly Thousands are not a band you would describe as prolific. The discography of these Irish lads can be boiled down to an extremely limited EP release in 2011 (50 copies), a double-A side 7" in 2011 (which was a re-recording of two songs from that first EP) and a follow-up four-song 7" EP in 2015. At least you can catch up quickly, and it's all quality. The band is so in my wheelhouse. Lots of jangle and sad-sack lyrics. The kind of tales that will make you think of Julian Henry, Harvey Williams and "Understand" era Brian. Take this litmus test to see whether you will find Goodly Thousands endearing or corny. Here are the opening lines to the 2013 song "I Wish".

I wish those were my hands in your hair
I wish I could go out without worrying you'll be there
I ought to tell you I like you the most
But my mouth gets dry every time I come close

Clearly, songwriter Colm Dawson is my kind of people. Hope he is yours too. You can get these two sentimental seven-inch singles shown above from the always dependable Shelflife Records here and here. Highly recommended. Now I'm off to work on making eye contact.

I Wish