Thursday, April 29, 2010

Diggin' now... Theophilus London

Latest new music I've been listing to a lot lately is right here: Theophilus London. Above is "A Stranger's Heart" off his new 'I Want You' mixtape. Listen to the rest via YouTube here.

I don't know much else about London. He's got a blog here. And he has a Twitter account here. He's also got another mixtape called 'This Charming Mixtape,' and it is, indeed, charming in its own way. He's got a new style, incorporating a lot of different sounds and styles into him music -- I'm sure part of that is the sample-heavy, repurposed beats nature of mixtapes. Still, two mixtapes in, I'm diggin' the soul, R&B, hip hop sounds. An example of the weird cross-genre working? He covers Marvin Gaye and samples Vampire Weekend. Yeah. Check it out.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Record Store Day, Wu-Massacre and vinyl in a quote

I try not share any (or at least not too much) boring, mundane stuff on here. I try to avoid the whole "I'm eating a sandwich" stereotype of blogger-types since Twitter came around -- and because I generally despise such things myself ( 'I feel your pain.' ). But I had to share this short conversation between Emma (my girlfriend) and I post-Record Store Day morning.

I had just spent way too much money, and I was talking about how I needed to take a break -- at least a few weeks -- from buying any records. I had been buying quite a bit lately, as this blog will attest to, not to mention the amount I spent last Saturday.

Me: "Yeah, I just can't really afford to spend much more money on this for a while. Plus I'm kind of cheap when it comes to spending that much at one time."
Emma: "That makes sense, you've been spending a lot on records lately."
Me: "Right. Well, I mean, I'm going to stop after I pick up this album I already had ordered from Melody [another shop in D.C.]"
Emma: "What is it?"
Me: "That new Wu-Tang album, on vinyl."

Emma: "Well, yeah. You gotta get that one."

I appreciate the sentiment. And the album Wu-Massacre is pretty damn good too.

Friday, April 23, 2010

In praise of CD/Game Exchange (Again)

I realize I've written a lot about Silver Spring's own CD/Game Exchange here, but as long as they keep giving me reasons to do so, I'll keep doing it. This time, it (again) involves technology, some great deals/finds and me finally getting my hands on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan that I've been looking for since... well, since I started collecting records.

It started Thursday morning when I got a direct message on Twitter from Sam at CD/Game Exchange letting me know they had some new items in. This, of course, was less than a week after Record Store Day, during which I spent way too much money on records and had pledged to take a break. I was going to pass it up. Then Sam, who later told me he had saw a post of mine about searching for Freewheelin', said they had that record in, and he'd hold it for me for a day or two.

It was a matter of hours -- after work, to be precise -- and I was biking over to CD/Game Exchange to take a look at the new acquisitions and pick up Freewheelin'. I know it's like a broken records (PUNS!) but this is yet another example of the benefit of small, independent businesses, particularly record stores, and the wonders of technology. The end result? Some great new records, and one I had been looking for for far too long.

Thursdays' pick-ups (pictured above):
  • Santana - 'Amigos'
  • Elvis Costello and the Attractions - 'Imperial Bedroom'
  • Bob Dylan - 'Nashville Skyline'
  • Bob Dylan - 'The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan'
  • Eric Clapton - '461 Ocean Boulevard'

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Freewheelin' Bob Dylan - Talkin' World War III Blues

A great song in its own right, Bob Dylan's 'Talkin' World War III Blues' has to be up there as one of my favorite Dylan songs ever, and definitely one of his best from his protest-y/folk/Woody Guthrie-like era. Remember, it came out in 1963. I could quote the entire song, but I'll just select a portion or two and strongly suggest you take the time to listen to it. Basically, it's a folk freestyle, and Dylan recorded five versions off the cuff, live in the studio. Number 5 made it on the album, and basically it tells a tale of Dylan's day post-World War III.

Here's a great portion:

Down at the corner by a hot-dog stand
I seen a man
I said, “Howdy friend, I guess there’s just us two”
He screamed a bit and away he flew
Thought I was a Communist

Well, I spied a girl and before she could leave
“Let’s go and play Adam and Eve”
I took her by the hand and my heart it was thumpin’
When she said, “Hey man, you crazy or sumpin’
You see what happened last time they started”

Well, I seen a Cadillac window uptown
And there was nobody aroun’
I got into the driver’s seat
And I drove down 42nd Street
In my Cadillac. Good car to drive after a war

Here's another section that end the song:
Well, now time passed and now it seems
Everybody’s having them dreams
Everybody sees themselves
Walkin’ around with no one else
Half of the people can be part right all of the time
Some of the people can be all right part of the time
But all of the people can’t be all right all of the time
I think Abraham Lincoln said that
“I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours”
I said that
Classic Dylan, and one of my favorite tracks off one of my favorite Dylan albums: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.

Why Record Store Day & the vinyl revival marks the death of the CD - if anything - in a good way!

Video killed the radio star. CD killed the vinyl record. And the MP3 killed the CD. In this progression of technological and musical advancement, where does the vinyl record's revival fit into the equation? I think only recently we've begun to see an answer to this question.

If you ask me, if there's any lasting effect that's likely to be seen from the vinyl revival, it's the death of the compact disc, despite what you may have heard. Think about it this way: for years there were vinyl records, which were the main means through which most everyone listened to music that didn't exist in radio transmissions. Eventually - and we've skipped the 8-track here - the CD came along and replaced the vinyl record in terms of price of production, portability and ease of use. That made sense, and the vinyl record was declared dead, buried with various other pre-1990 practices about which discussion has been avoided for obvious reasons.

Eventually, MP3s and the iTunes store came along, allowing people to buy certain songs and albums without ever having to leave the comfort of their point of Internet access, wherever that may be. Music was freed from the confines of walkmans, speaker wire and clunky boomboxes, for good or ill. Before we knew it, musical liberation was brought to anyone with the means to access the Internet and iTunes. Vive la musical revolucion! ( it were.) In time, CDs became like a thumb drive, essentially a medium for storing musical data.

But then came that pesky vinyl record that just. will. not. die. Out of the ashes, it's back, and now there's this national Record Store Day thing that's big enough that my parents are calling me, saying they heard about it and wondering what I picked up (multigenerational fun!). Then there's the fact that more and more records are coming with digital download codes instead of CD copies -- who needs THAT? It's clear, given the recent strength of the vinyl revival, that it's indeed the CD that is on the march toward obsolescence, and here's why:

As I pointed out in this post, and above, since most everyone simply buys a CD for the digital data that's able to be loaded onto an iPod or MP3 player, the CD is more a means to these ends than anything else. A digital download, with a vinyl record, meets that need in a more pleasing way than a CD. When's the last time you heard someone say, "Yeah, I heard it, but I really want to buy the CD, you know, just to have it." And if there was a specific need for a CD, the low cost of a bunch of CD-Rs means that the musical data is easily made into a CD to meet whatever needs that medium fulfills. This low cost of production is a contributing factor to the death of the CD that, gladly, the vinyl record does not have to deal with.

But the point is, a vinyl record of music presents something that's pleasing to look at and very tangible in a way that adds to its value. There are often books or posters that come along with the album, and there's the album art and the records itself. It's all a nice bonus on top of the music that's available to many, regardless of their medium of choice. In this sense, the CD is utterly useless, a cheap plastic disc with little value outside of data storage, aside from the ability to walk straight out of a store and pop the CD into a car. And I challenge anyone to tell me of a time they last did that, or, better yet, point to data that show any significant number of people do that at all.

I admit, there's a large population of people who either download music illegally or just download it without even considering going to pick up a new album in a store of any kind. Sure, for these people, any physical copy of music is an unnecessary bother when they could simply download it via a click or two. But outside of this group, what we're seeing is an opportunity for the music industry to capitalize on two musical phenomena (vinyl and digital) decades apart that, coincidently, have merged to provide a great opportunity to an industry that's suffering under the weight of new technologies.

The portability of digital music, with the aesthetics of the vinyl record (with a 'digital option,' so to speak) present opportunity to capitalize on two different movements that are positive in a number of different ways. This is why, I think, the CD is dead - D. E. A. D.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On record fairs... and D.C.'s Black Cat says next one here is May 23 (!!)

Just days (DAYS) after Record Store Day comes word that the Black Cat in Washington, D.C. is going to be hosting the city's next record fair May 23rd, just a little over a month away. Looking ahead to this, rather than back at Record Store Day (just for a moment) got my thinking about record fairs in general.

I've only been to one proper record fair, and that was earlier this year in D.C. but I had always heard about them and wanted to check them out. Between reading stuff like this story from Montreal about people finding super-rare and super-expensive records at various places and the stories you always hear about a unassuming trip somewhere only to find something so amazing you can hardly believe it, I decided I had to check these things out.

So, in mid-February, we headed to the D.C. record fair. It was the first weekend after the Washington area got hammered with a week's worth of blizzard conditions, so just being out of the house and on the move somewhere was worth it. We got downtown to the Black Cat, a club in the area, and made it inside. What I saw was a sight was a sight to be seen -- to use a, come to think of it, incredibly redundant, meaningless and useless cliche. It was crazy.

There were more records than I had ever seen in one place. Ever. There were dealers stationed along every wall, packed in the middle of the dance floor, people waiting in lines three, four, five deep just to get to certain table so they could begin to look at the offerings. On the stage, there were DJs doing sets throughout. When I first got inside, Geologist from Animal Collective was on the stage. Not a bad start.

But it wasn't all good. For one, it was far too crowded for me. Waiting in line just to wait in line just to be able to look through records isn't my idea of a good time. Also, being cramped next to other people and having a line of people breathing down your neck when you finally do get to look through the records isn't any fun either. It limited the kind of casual perusing I enjoy, and instead meant you had to be very deliberate about it. Also, on a less-important, but no inconsequential note, it was too dark. I could hardly see what I was looking at and a number of people were using cell phones just so they could see.

Still, these problems aside, a room full of records -- with a full-service bar -- and a gathering of vinyl heads couldn't be all bad. And we landed some great finds: Duke Ellington and John Coltrane album, The Who's 'Tommy,' Pink Floyd's 'The Wall,' The Ramones self-titled first issue and The Doors' 'Strange Days,' all in decent shape and not too expensive. I call that a reasonable success.

So I'd give the experience a B+. I found some great records, had a decent time and didn't spend too much money. I found all of those records between two of the vendors, so who knows what I might have found if I was able to freely look around without having wait in long lines to do so. But that probably would've extracted too much money from my pocket anyway. So, for what it was, my first record fair was a worthwhile experience. Looking forward to the next one.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

UPDATED 4/20: Record Store Day and the Flaming Lips Dark Side of the Moon clear vinyl mystery

Just a really quick update here: We now have confirmed reports of 'seafoam green vinyl' stickers coming with both clear and green vinyl. We also have 'clear vinyl' stickers coming with clear vinyl. Do we know if there were any that came with a 'clear vinyl' sticker, but seafoam green vinyl?

I still haven't seen any official reports or numbers on what exactly happened here, but given this sticker information, it certainly seems like this was, at some level, a mistake. Otherwise, if this was done on purpose, it seems at least the stickers would correspond to the vinyl inside. Think of it this way, I would assume since there are no 'clear vinyl' sticker albums that came with seafoam green vinyl (at least that I'm aware of) perhaps the mistake is simply on the issue of putting the proper sticker on the proper album, and the colors were done on purpose?

I'll put it out here again: Anyone have any good information? It sure would be nice - perhaps Record Store Day organizers or Warner Bros. - could lend some clarity to what's going on here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Record Store Day report... and why more people should shop local more often

It was just an off-topic tweet from the official Record Store Day Twitter account this morning, but it was also a good point, and really important, so I wanted to draw attention it. It said: "extend the @recordstoreday love to other local indie retail. Next week: Indie Hardware Store Day. Would organize, but we are tired."

Now, I don't know if Indie Hardware Store Day is real - a cursory Google search and my own common sense says no - but nonetheless, it's a good thought. By that I mean, supporting local, indie businesses, not just hardware stores explicitly, is a good thing. Here's the deal: There are obviously a lot of reasons to love Record Store Day and local record stores in general. The shops have become a sort of relic to a past when buying music was an experience rather than something that involved hopping into the nearest Best Buy. Record stores have some really good stuff that no one else has. There are the limited releases that are a lot of fun on certain days. There's the sense of community and just general enjoyment from it all that I've written about on this very blog. It's everything you wouldn't expect from a Best Buy or Target or something similar

But it's worth noting that Record Store Day - and the stores themselves - are great for all these reasons because they involve local/indie shops, not just by some magical virtue of vinyl. All the reasons to love RSD that I listed above - and I realize there are a lot more - are because of the objective nature of these stores. It's the local ownership, the small scale of operation. When I wrote about my experience at Joe's in Silver Spring, I said that never would've happened at a big box store. It's true, and the same goes for most everything that's great about record stores and vinyl collecting in general. But it's important to remember that it's just as much about the stores as the records. And, as great as the records are, the stores themselves are a big part of it. That same experience and benefits can come from a lot of the great local stores of any kind.

To that end, it's worth keeping that in mind when you're buying other items around town -- assuming you still have money left over after Record Store Day. Go to the independent bike store when you need some work done, for example. Order from a local pizza or Chinese takeout place instead Dominoes and the like. Go to a co-op. The local independent business sector isn't as robust as it once was in a lot of places, and there are a lot of reasons for that. It's true that sometimes it costs a bit more, or you can't find everything you might want in one place. But if those are the downsides, there are a whole lot of benefits too. And it'd be a shame if, amid all this Record Store Day excitement, the fact that it started as a day to support local independent businesses (in this case, record stores) got lost and wasn't carried over to other shopping habits.

UPDATE: Record Store Day - Flaming Lips Dark Side of the Moon CLEAR VINYL - New info?

UPDATED 1:15 p.m.: Matt, in the comments, points out he also got a clear vinyl in the US, but his had a sticker saying "custom clear vinyl." Upon further review, so did mine. I haven't seen any "seafoam green" stickers, although Matt says he has. It could be that "custom clear" could apply to the clear AND green vinyl, since they're both transparent. But it certainly seems that, with these stickers, either that's the case or the seafoam/clear distinction was on purpose for one reason or another.

Via a comment on the Flaming Lips' own blog, someone claimed to have ALSO gotten a clear copy of this Flaming Lips Record Store Day Dark Side of the Moon release. As did someone commenting on my original post. So, we know there are at least a handful out there, but I'd imagine there are more.

Here's a thread at the Flaming Lips site: There are a couple more who say they have clear copies. One person is pissed, although I'm not sure why. Another speculated maybe the "dye ran out." I don't think that's it. Finally, another quotes from a Facebook posting of an Ann Arbor, Mich. store: "Underground Sounds - Ann Arbor, Michigan I was told by Warner 10,000; 4,500 clear, 5,500 seafoam and that it sold so fast it will be a regular release in June."

Which brings me to the purpose of this post: Has anyone seen any totals or good, solid information on this? Some people already selling their copies on eBay claim that there are only 500 copies of the clear version in the world, but that doesn't fit for two reasons: One, some postings like this one claim the album has never been opened. Now, maybe this person has some kind of home Xray machine, but I doubt it. How would you know it's clear? That makes me doubt everything the person wrote. Two, at least according to the guy at Crooked Beat, stores were made aware of the 'mistake' the night before Record Store Day. So, if it was actually a mistake, I'd doubt there'd be an official count by the next day. But then again, maybe it wasn't a mistake at all and this is some kind of super-secret-special edition? Although if that was the case, I think there'd be some kind of information out on this already. I think this latter scenario is more selfish wishful thinking than anything else.

Anyway, I'm going to keep poking around for information. Just figured I'd put up a flare for any other information out there.

Here's the album, again: (Beautiful)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Record Store Day: First after-action report

My Record Store Day started at 6:30 a.m. with my cell phone alarm ringing. Note: This is at least an hour earlier than I get up for work every day. But this was Record Store Day. I'd live.

In the days before, I had decided Crooked Beat was the store of choice for the limited releases, since they seemed to have the most. Emma and I made it there by 7:45 a.m. and were officially the seventh and eighth people in line. That would end up being really important.

Over the next three to four hours, people continued to show up, Emma finished a book, I read the paper, got breakfast, etc. etc. Eventually, the line was to the end of the block. That's the boring part. Fast-forward to about 10:35 a.m., and there we are, with the manager explaining how this was all going to work and how many of each release they had. That John Lennon singles bag - only pressed 7,000 times, and coming with a custom adapter, postcards, poster, original album art in an awesome sleeve - that you might have heard about? They had six. SIX. I was seventh in line, and it seemed everyone in front of me was going to buy one. They had even fewer of the Beastie Boys release, of which there are only 1,000 (!) copies on the world. For the full list of everything that was out today - not necessarily everything at Crooked Beat - go here.

Anyway, we were let in the store, and while I waited to tell the people at the counter what I wanted, I watched as the Lennon singles went, one by one, out the doro. I had realized the fact - if I hadn't already - that I was not going to get this release. But then I was second in line... and there were still TWO on the shelf. Turns out, one of the guys ahead of me decided NOT to buy a John Lennon singles bag, purposefully allowing me to get the last one in the store, and probably the last one in the District/Maryland/Northern Virginia area, to be honest. I thanked him. He said, "Hey, I take care of my peoples." I feel like I should've bought him lunch or something. It's seems as though he just decided to let me have it. Seriously.

With those two albums in hand, plus the Flaming Lips and the rest listed below, I had every release I wanted, save a certain Bruce Springsteen release I didn't know much about until I was standing in line and looked at the person's ahead of me. But, given all that, I can, without a doubt, say that waking up at 6:30 a.m. and waiting a few hours on a Saturday morning was entirely worth it. The experience of someone ahead of me in line essentially passing up one of the most exclusive releases of the day - to be fair, a friend or two of his already had one - was just another example of what I've been trying to get at with this whole blog. This vinyl stuff is great. I love the music, but there's more to it. And it was a stark difference considering the guy who showed up this morning from a different record store - he shouted, "I got all that shit you want!" to someone else. He had bought two copies of the Lennon singles bag - he tried to get a third, but the store wouldn't let him - almost certainly just wanted to flip them later for a profit. What a waste.

It's exactly what I was saying in my post earlier this week. Here we were, a handful of people into vinyl in 2010. We had waited hours on the street. Were incredibly excited about the whole affair, and we knew that we were in the thing together. Ultimately, that showed. It made the morning go quicker. There was one guy I was talking with, he was going to run to McDonald's for food and a bathroom break. After talking to him for 10 minutes, he said he'd be right back. But he also asked me if I wanted anything for him to bring back for me in the line. A perfect stranger, just asked me if I'd like some breakfast, since he was going anyway. Show me one other time this would happen, and it can't involve a sign asking for help on the highway. Even then, it's unlikely.

And thanks to all that, and to Record Store Day in general, I'm writing this listening to some great John Lennon music right now. Now, THAT, alone, was worth getting up at 6:30 a.m. today.

Here's everything I got:
  • Beastie Boys mystery white release (1,000 pressed worldwide)
  • Black Keys - 12-inch singles: Howlin' For You/Tighten Up (limited)
  • The Doors - People are Strange 7-inch (2,500 pressed worldwide)
  • Flaming Lips - Dark Side of the Moon (5,000 pressed worldwide) - Rare CLEAR vinyl
  • Jimi Hendrix live at Clark University 1968 (limited)
  • John Lennon Singles Bag (7,000 pressed worldwide)
  • Rolling Stones - Plundered My Soul 7-inch (Exile on Main St. outtakes) (limited)
  • Velvet Underground - Live 1969 Vol. 1 reissue (1,500 pressed worldwide)
  • Neil Young - Heart of Gold 7-inch (limited)
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Skeletons 7-inch (limited)

Record Store Day - CLEAR VINYL - Flaming Lips / Dark Side of the Moon surprise

I plan a full after-action report of this morning's Record Store Day festivities, but I just got back and started opening the records and found THIS in my Flaming Lips LP:

Apologies for the poor quality of the photo, but as you can see, the record is CLEAR. That's right. CLEAR. I heard from the manager at Crooked Beat that he got a call from the label last night saying there were some errors in the color during pressing, and apparently this is one of those errors. Originally, it was supposed to be sea foam green, but this is WAY better. Just a note on the photo, that's the cover of the album behind the clear -- again, CLEAR -- record.

Anyone else come across this?

Friday, April 16, 2010

On Record Store Day - The Day Before

I've been thinking a lot about Record Store Day lately, for more reasons than one. Obviously, it's a great day in its own right. In Minneapolis there were always in-store concerts, sales on most everything and so on. In D.C., there are sales, giveaways, maybe some in-stores? I'm not sure. But all those things make Record Store Day, in and of itself, a worthwhile affair. Anything that brings like-minded people together is a good thing.

But as I noted in the previous post, this time around -- now that I actually have a record player -- I'm set on getting my hands on some of these exclusive releases. I'm so set, in fact, that I'll probably be lining up at least three hours before opening tomorrow in D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood just to be among the first in line. Crooked Beat is stop number one, as I hear they'll have most releases and some giveaway bags as well.

The idea of getting up early, waiting that long in line - basically the day-after-Thanksgiving approach - is something I couldn't really see myself doing for anything for a long time though. I once waited six hours outside Fifth Element in Minneapolis for the last 100 remaining tickets to the Rhymesayers 10th Anniversary Show, but that ended up being one of the greatest concerts I've ever been to. Worth it. I also waited for a couple hours for a Brother Ali in-store/release party there, but nothing like this, I think.

Then I started thinking about the objective reality of what I'll be doing: Waiting in line for limited-release records that contain music that are only available for one day. In the year 2010, that's quite strange if you think about it. I could easily download a lot of music right now. I could find some of these records on Ebay or something - granted, they'll likely be much more expensive than they will be tomorrow. But, no. Tomorrow, on April 17, 2010, I'll be getting up early and waiting in line at a real-live store to buy music in it's physical form on vinyl. How strange.

But as strange as it is, I think that reality is what I like so much about this vinyl adventure. In today's world, so much is available at any time, whenever you want it. New music? Download it - maybe even for free. Movie you want to see? Go online. That television program you like? Hulu. You can Netflix, you can Tivo, you can stream, and on and on. I don't know if all that is really a good thing, though. It kind of cheapens the product and the experience. There's a big difference in the mindset when it comes to music when it can be either simply some coded data on a computer or a physical thing you can hold, look at, and so on. I mean, sure I watch stuff on Hulu and download music. But in a way that just hurts the sense of community around a common activity -- everyone's got their own screen, their own ear buds, doing their own thing. You're experiencing little together - that's no fun.

But Record Store Day has become a kind of last vestige of a time when people would get together to watch a show or listen to an album -- and just do that. More than just an excuse to probably spend too much money on records and go for the exclusive releases, Record Store Day is something that brings people together, as cheesy as that sounds (and believe me, I know it's cheesy). But it's true, too! Tomorrow, there I'll be, with a bunch of other like-minded people, standing in line, together, waiting to buy music we could - for the most part - already be listening to. On its face, that's strange. But if you get it, it's great. And it's really a rare thing in today's world. And I'm really, really looking forward to it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Record Store Day - Crate digger flare

Record Store Day 2010 is less than a week away and I've been trying to plan my route (re: plan of attack). Now, I know there's a lot to this day, but I'm admittedly a bit of a new addition to the droves. I didn't have my record player last April, so this will be the first for me since I really got into this record collecting thing. Also, it's my first since I moved to D.C.

What this means is:
1) At least the very beginning of my Record Store Day will be focused on a getting my hands on a few of the special releases -- I'm talking about YOU Flaming Lips 'Dark Side of the Moon' LP.
2) I really don't know what to expect from the D.C. crate-digger-types. The record fair in February was more packed than I would've guessed. But I'm trying to decide how early to show up for a 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. opening. I've had 8 a.m. or earlier suggest -- which I'm OK with -- and I've also gotten an 'honestly don't know.'
3) I'm still not familiar enough with all the stores here to simply pick a store or two or three and know what I'll be getting myself into and what to expect.

So, here's my crate digger flare, seeking assistance from any like-minded-types who may stumble across this site. If you're in D.C., let me know in the comments what to expect, if you can. If you're not, just tell me what you think. I'm looking to be among the first in line -- or in the first group -- wherever I go. So, fellow crate diggers, what's your Record Store Day plan?

Friday, April 9, 2010

On MGMT - 'Congratulations'

UPDATE [4/12/09 - 6:52 p.m.]: As I previously noted, I'm secure enough in my Pitchfork readership (in a not-self-hating way) to say that I agree with most everything this review says. But a few add-ons. One: This is an 8 or 9, not 6.8. But that's Pitchfork's thing, I think.
Two, there's no tabula rasa for Pitchfork going into a review, generally, or this one specifically. It's all relative to previous albums and the band itself. Not a bad thing. This album got the same score as MGMT's first from Pitchfork. But they're so different. Oracular Spectacular was fun at points, and solid overall. This album, is a whole 'nother animal. The samples, the styles incorporated. The way it's all over the place, but all right there at the same time. The obvious pivot in the direction of the band. And still doing it well. In that sense, this album is better than their first. There, I said it. Go. Buy. It. Now. Right. Now. Or tomorrow, when it's on sale. Go. Go. Go.

Here I was, trying to take a break from picking up records until next weekend's Record Store Day 2010. But I heard I had the chance to get MGMT's new album 'Congratulations' on vinyl before it's April 13 release day from a local shop here in D.C. and I wasn't about to pass it up. First few tracks in, I'm really glad I didn't.

Whoever's reading this -- my friends included -- probably saw a post on the hipster-favorite-turned-not-favorite band and closed the window. But if you're still with me, allow me to defend myself and MGMT. First, MGMT's first album, I don't care what you say, was a great record. The most common complaint I hear about it is that it was overplayed. Fair enough, but that's not the record's fault, and certainly not the band's fault. Blame your friends, the radio, the Internet, whatever. The first effort was great -- and this second album seems to shaping up in much the same way.

But, from what I've heard thus far, this is NOT Oracular Spectacular Part II. The first three tracks very much live up to the category of music of the first but it's different too. No surprise so far that its name is 'Congratulations.' Sounds upbeat. A bit of a sonic victory lap. Reminds me of the rumors that Kanye West is set to release an album called 'Good Ass Job.' Too bad MGMT didn't go that route... really piss the haters off.

I'll wrap up this post here and get back to listening. But what I really wanted to do was mount a defense for MGMT. OK, 'Kids' was overplayed. So was 'Electric Feel'...etc. etc. but certainly it wasn't the band taking control of your party's sound system, playing their own songs over and over and over again. Just have a listen.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Diggin' now: Erykah Badu's non-nude news

There's been enough made about Erykah Badu's (for-some-reason) controversial video for 'Window Seat' in which she *GASP* apparently (I haven't seen it) strips down in the streets of Houston, Texas and pretends to reenacts the assassination of JFK.

Right. Well, I've never really considered myself a card-carrying members of the culture police, so I won't start now. But what I will do is make a HUGE plug for Badu's new album which has been in heavy, heavy, heavy rotation since Thursday. Aside from her well-known and amazing vocal chops, the smooth beats are so textured, in a contradictory kind of way. Know what I mean?

Anyway, above is 'Turn Me Away (Get Munny)' -- one, and probably my favorite, track off the album New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh. Check it out. Soon-ish to now.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Crate diggin' in the new world... Part Trois

I got some questions after my last post in which I lamented my continuous search for The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan album on vinyl. A number of them focused on the fact that, yes, I could just order the damn album online and -- how convenient! -- get it shipped straight to my door. How convenient indeed.

But, alas, people who said this to me: I realize the Internet is a powerful tool when it comes to looking for things to buy. That development is something like a decade old at this point. But that's not the handle here. It reminds me of an interview ahead of D.C.'s last record in the Washington Post -- I'd link to it here, but I can't find it. Basically, Geologist (of Animal Collective fame) was asked what his 'White whale' was, as far as crate digging goes. If I remember correctly, his response was basically, "Not sure." He said, essentially, that with the Internet, it's not like there are a lot of records that are IMPOSSIBLE to find. Really, no matter how rare they are, it's a simple matter of whether -- or how much -- you want to pay for them, not a question of availability.

That's exactly right. Look, I know The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan isn't exactly a super-rare album by vinyl heads' standards, but it was essentially the record that opened the door for me to get into Dylan's music. It was the first one that really hooked me. That, and his first album, are also, I think, like relics in his repertoire. They show his roots. They're Woody Guthrie-esque which, of course, was the point. And I haven't been able to find it on used vinyl ever. Ceci la nature de la bĂȘte.

But as much as I'd love to have it on vinyl, I don't want to just get on a Web site and order it. When I (thought) I found it at Joe's last weekend, I was ecstatic, so much so that -- apparently -- as I was inspecting the record, I didn't take the time to look at just which album I was in fact buying. But that's what is great about doing this. It's not just simply buying the record to listen to it -- OK, with new records that's a part of it. But with the used stuff, it's the discovery. It's walking into a store not knowing what you're going to find. It's the feeling of walking out of a shop almost uncontrollably excited to get hope to play the new record that, conversely, is what keeps you coming back.

It's an interesting balance, for sure. I'd be interested to know what the Internets think about this. To anyone reading this -- crate diggers, especially -- what's your take on Web-buying records?