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Reviews: The Life and Times' The Life and Times
Reviews: Atoms and Void's And Nothing Else
Reviews: Survival Knife's "Traces of Me" and "Divine Mob" Singles
2013 (and 2012!) Year-End List Extravaganza
Reviews: Girls Against Boys' The Ghost List EP
Reviews: Bottomless Pit's Shade Perennial
Reviews: Carton / Alpha Cop Split Single
Reviews: Fuck Buttons' Slow Focus
Reviews: Speedy Ortiz's Major Arcana
Reviews: Two Inch Astronaut's Bad Brother


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Willfully Obscure

Temporary Residence Limited to Release Eluvium Vinyl Box

Official Eluvium site

I’ve done a good job sticking to my wait-for-the-vinyl policy since I adopted it a few years ago, but one artist that constantly tempted me to break ranks and buy CDs is Eluvium. I kept hearing rumblings about a possible vinyl box set from Temporary Residence Limited, but his catalog—especially the layered brilliance of 2005’s Talk Amongst the Trees, the solo piano of 2004’s An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death, and the symphonic leanings of 2007’s Copia—is so consistently great that I felt guilty for only owning his split LP with Jesu, nearly caving to pick up those releases. (I still haven’t picked up Miniatures, Matthew Robert Cooper’s first release under his actual name, but I’ll order it from Gaarden Records sooner or later.)

Thankfully TRL came through with that proposed vinyl box set, setting up pre-orders at the beginning of the month for a seven LP book that should be delivered before Christmas. Dropping $120 on the vast majority of Eluvium’s catalog (minus that split LP with Jesu, since it already appeared on vinyl, and Miniatures) made my stomach turn as I processed my pre-order, but at least I won’t feel guilty when I see CD copies of Talk Amongst the Trees at Newbury Comics. Given that this is a limited edition of 1000 and TRL followers hoard vinyl like gemstones (I’ve seen the 2LP of Tarentel’s From Bone to Satellite near $100 on eBay), I anticipate it selling out before long. Here are the details of the pressing:

Each record is packaged in its own full-color jacket, featuring exquisite new artwork from Jeannie Lynn Paske, drawn exclusively for this set. The seven jackets are then bound into a beautiful dark green hardbound, linen-cover book, with metallic gold foil stamping and embossed text on the spine, and a beautiful full-color print embossed into the front cover. The inside front cover includes a removable old-fashioned library card, complete with personalized signatures from the artists and designers involved in the creation of this package. The final name on the library card will belong to the purchaser, hand-written and dated when purchased. The inside back cover includes a mind-blowing 12x36" foldout double-sided full-color poster insert, featuring more artwork from Ms. Paske.

Other notes gleaned from the TRL forum thread on the release: the individual albums will not get separate vinyl pressings in the future; each record will be 140 grams, since 180 gram LPs would rip through the packaging; “Behind Your Trouble,” the song from Eluvium’s Travels in Constants EP, was too long to fit on a side of vinyl and was not included; and TRL has a miniscule profit margin on this release. I wish more bands and labels rewarded fans’ patience this well.

Record Store Day

Today (Saturday, April 19th) is Record Store Day. Don't let Bruce Springsteen single-handedly support the record industry.

In all honesty, I do my best to advocate buying new music. While I download a good amount of music and make certain songs available on this site, I feel compelled to buy worthy records whenever they're released and pick up vinyl reissues of old favorites. I understand the appeal of iTunes for a generation that didn't grow up needing the physical product in order to hear the music contained therein, but I still cherish acquiring the actual thing, preferably in LP format. I also love spending hours flipping through bins of records, which is why I try to support stores I enjoy in addition to purchasing music directly from the artists or their labels.

I'll be hitting up the Newbury Comics in Harvard Square bright and early for their 25% off vinyl sale, but here are some of my other favorite stores, past and present:

Parasol Records, Champaign, IL: I relied on Parasol Mail Order to acquire Midwestern indie rock in high school, but being able to visit the brick and mortar location when I moved to Champaign for college was far, far superior. Being able to banter with Roy, Jim, Angie, Bill, Jeff, and the other staffers made afternoons disappear. Their no-longer-new location seems less like a mail order basement and more like an actual store, so if you're in central Illinois, make the trip.

Reckless Records, Chicago, IL: I was simply floored by the amount of stock both the Broadway Ave. and Milwaukee Ave. locations possess. The first few times I hit them up I seemingly purchased CDs, LPs, and seven-inches by the pound, scouring dollar CD bins and $0.33 single bins for countless treasures. Receiving an enormous box of music in the mail simply can't compare with exiting the store with a plastic bag straining by the handles.

Vintage Vinyl, Granite City, IL: I'm not sure if this location is still in business, but I preferred shopping here to the Vintage Vinyl in the St. Louis loop. I credit the day when they had all of their seven-inches on sale for a buck apiece and I bought no fewer than 25 of them, but I've also heard enough stories from Jon Mount about when he worked there to hold a certain appreciation for its charms. I may have shopped there near the end of its peak as a store, but I still enjoyed the experience and have more than enough trophies to prove it.

Sonic Boom, Seattle, WA: I visited several Sonic Boom locations when I was in Seattle two Decembers ago and recommend both of them. The vinyl annex of the Ballard location was particularly fruitful, netting me the only used Lungfish LPs I've seen. Everyday Music in Capitol Hill was also a noteworthy store, producing an LP of Chavez's glorious Ride the Fader.

RRRecords, Lowell, MA: RRRecords isn't the easiest store to frequent—you have to call ahead to ensure that it's open during stated business hours, and even that is no guarantee—but the walls of reasonably priced new and used LPs are worth the effort. RRRecords is also a noted noise label, so if you're fond of that genre, it's a must-visit.

Rhino Records, New Paltz, NY: I drove out to New Paltz on my last visit home to my parents' house and was disappointed to learn that Rhino has moved to a smaller location, changed their focus to "collectable" vinyl (i.e., charging $20 for everything), and eliminating any worthwhile cheap bins. This comes in stark contrast to what I came to expect from the once-various Rhino locations (Poughkeepsie, Hyde Park [I think]): a constant rotation of realistically priced new and used CDs and some epic dollar bins. It's a shame that I've written off revisiting Rhino, at least until I'm swimming in extra dough.

Other noteworthy stores include Record Exchange in Salem, MA, which I visited for the first time last weekend and Other Music and Kim's Video in New York City. I still need to make a trip out to the Amoeba locations out in LA and San Francisco, but it's hard to book vacations around record shopping.

Remember that the Boss needs your help. Happy shopping.

Record Collection Reconciliation, V2

A few years back I had a thread on this site called Record Collection Reconciliation, inspired by the number of records I’d picked up and hadn’t yet played. As most with most projects I tackle, it sputtered out before its completion. In retrospect the biggest problem wasn’t that I didn’t finish the task at hand, but that I jumped the gun on the assignment. I doubt that my collection even approached 200 LPs at the time, with roughly equivalent number of seven-inches to bolster the ranks. While I’ve more or less stopped picking up vinyl singles, my LP collection has ballooned to almost 600 in the last two years, largely thanks to gorging myself on dollar LPs. Beyond the testy concern of storage, the most pressing concern is finding the time to actually listen to this many new records, particularly for weeks when I grab more than I should.

Once I had the inclination to revive this long-dead project, I flipped through my record shelf and pulled a selection of my unheard LPs. Seventy winners were chosen, with a musical range more typical of my iPod Chicanery projects than, say, my Last.FM account, which is to say that it’s not all Colin Newman, Foals, and Wipers LPs. This selection is by no means exhaustive—as terrifying as it is to admit, I have more unheard LPs waiting in the wings—and avoids repeating artists too heavily. Sorry Elvis Costello, I will have to get to Taking Liberties and Goodbye Cruel World at a later date. Will I ever get around to a more comprehensive look at my record collection? Unlikely, but who knows how much momentum this iteration will have.

My goal is to tackle at least five LPs each week. Initially I intended to select each album at random, but given that I’ve put my most brutal version of iPod Chicanery on hold for the time being, I’ll allow myself to choose a record I probably feel like hearing at a given moment. The range of records is significant in terms of genre, quality, and familiarity (while I may not have heard a particular album from an artist, say Elvis Costello, I’m likely familiar with his other work). Expect the first entry within a few days; I’ll try to cover five records per post. I’m also considering including any records I buy between now and the end of the project, provided that it’s not a long overdue physical copy of a well-loved album.

Aside from my previous attempt at Record Collection Reconciliation, notable analogs to this project include Michael T. Fournier’s 2005 blog A–Z and two current Onion AV Club threads, Noel Murray’s Popless and the staff’s Vinyl Retentive, the latter of which currently features Engine Down’s To Bury Within the Sound LP, a record I own and have listened to. I’m sure there are others comparable sites—feel free to suggest them—but I’m by no means a voracious blog reader.

Record Buying Mistakes

I let my Wire obsession get the better of me last Friday. In addition to buying the double LP of their rarities compilation Turns and Strokes (which has excellent Wire versions of the later Colin Newman tracks “Safe,” “Lorries,” and a few others) and the Kidney Bongos LP, I found something that was filed next to a copy of Colin Newman’s Not To LP called C. Newman and Janet Smith. I’d never heard of it before, but the timeframe seemed right; Colin Newman was in Germany in the mid-1980s recording with his future wife’s band. C. Newman is credited with vocals and arrangement, which seems about right. So instead of thinking critically about the situation—“Sebastian, you have a limited record buying budget right now. Why take a chance on this when you could buy a Roxy Music LP and an XTC LP for the same price? Those are known quantities.”—I plopped it down with my other Wire-related pick-ups and an LP of Charles Mingus’s Mingus Ah Um. On the drive back from RRRecords in Lowell I started getting the sinking suspicion that this C. Newman was not in fact Colin, and when I got home I let a Google search inform me of my mistake.

Initially I wasn’t going to listen to the record out of spite, but when I saw this listing describe it as art-rock/jazz, I figured I’d give it a shot. Additionally, Janet Smith turned out to be Robert Smith’s sister. (Requisite Achewood quote: “It is silly to like The Cure!”) Halfway through the first song, I’ve learned that Chris Newman has an obnoxious baritone and worse lyrics, although those may very well be taking the piss. I wanted to listen to the whole thing, but could only make it through two-and-a-half songs. I may suffer through iPod Chicanery (some of the time), but this record was torture, especially since I paid full price for it. If you are a Cure super-completist, check eBay in the next few weeks.

With regard to my history of record-buying mistakes, I remember being completely ashamed when I purchased a second copy of Idlewild’s Hope Is Important from Reckless in Chicago under the false impression that I didn’t own it. For me, record buying mistakes are an issue of memory, not taste. Finding out that a new record doesn’t meet my expectations has largely disappeared in the age of file-sharing, but even before that era I viewed that experience as a learning process. My biggest concern is my capacity to bring whatever knowledge I have from reading reviews, listening to records, getting recommendations, etc. into the record store. As my record collection has ballooned to almost 1700 items, my ability to remember which Elvis Costello LPs I already own has diminished. Given that I’ve been reading a biography of Wire, I probably should have thought a bit more critically about the suspect origins of this LP. If nothing else, I should be proud of the fact that I can only think of a couple of similar errors in my history of record buying.