It’s Time to Play B-Sides Top 20 Albums of 2013

Here we are again at the end of a year when everyone trots out their “Top” lists. This is my third year of assembling one of these, and for me it is a good exercise in remembering what the hell I listened to! 2013 seemed to blow by very quickly and frankly, it took some reflection to even remember what I listened to this year. 2013 was the seventh year for It’s Time to Play B-Sides and the 2nd year at the job I got after my 2011 layoff. My wife and I moved homes again this year– five doors down from our last place in which we had spent one very unsettled year. This place is wonderful and a much better fit for us, and we have actually moved into this place– hung pictures, hung guitars and decorated for Christmas (in itself this tells you a lot). We’re looking forward to 2014 as a year of focusing on something other than where we are living.

Getting to the music of 2013, when I look at the Top lists for other websites and magazines, I missed or ignored some pretty big releases this year. More-and-more we are becoming a singles-based culture when it comes to music and discussions of whole albums from artists is falling from the mainstream. There are some big releases from 2013 that merit some mention here, I think.

Kanye West’s Yeezus was Spin Magazine’s top release. Aside from his appearance at the Hurricane Sandy benefit and hearing “Black Skinhead” a lot (admittedly a great track), I didn’t get a chance to sit down with it. Helpfully, Google Play made it a free download yesterday and I have it. The cursory listen I gave it shows West at the top of his game and the production of the album is top-notch. It was a big year for Daft Punk who lent production on four tracks on Yeezus (including the aforementioned “Black Skinhead”) and then released their own hugely-successful Random Access Memories with the internet-meme-generating “Get Lucky.”

My friend John Book mentions Justin Timberlake’s much-anticipated 20/20 Experience in his Top Albums list and he echoes pretty much what everyone else thinks– JT blew his load on Part One, and probably should have left well enough alone and not released Part Two (which hardly anyone mentions except to say he shouldn’t have released it). The week of JT on Fallon was amazing and enough for me to download the album, though I’d have to admit that I didn’t stay listening to it for very long. John Book’s review of Part One is worth a read.

Lady Gaga dropped her ARTPOP album this year and though I couldn’t believe it, she managed to release something less interesting than her last album Born This Way. I loved both Fame and the follow up Fame Monster EP— delicious slices of electronic pop with a keen sense of “now.” She has– in my opinion– devolved from being a musician and has become more focused on the spectacle.

All of that said, here is my list of the Top Albums of 2013 (In No Particular Order):

Hiss Golden Messenger – Haw – (on my releases I’m Looking forward to for 2013) – Haw really delivers on the promise of the albums that came before it. Largely a vehicle for the songwriting of MC Taylor and Scott Hirsh HGM enlists an amazing cast (William Tyler, the guys from Megafaun) to help deliver their sound which is a compelling mix of 70’s folk rock, American Primitive and a side of jam-based instrumentals. I’ve been following HGM from the first releases and find the spiritual searching of Taylor to be really compelling. In 2014, Hiss Golden Messenger’s 2011 release Bad Debt will get a remaster and reissue by Paradise of Bachelors with a bonus track from the original kitchen table cassette recordings made in 2010.

Golden Gunn – self-titled – (on my releases I’m Looking forward to for 2013) – Hirsh and Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger make my list again with this brilliant collaboration with Steve Gunn. A super-rare vinyl release on Record Store Day, but you can get the CD and digital download from Paradise of Bachelors. Apparently Gunn and Taylor shared a long car ride to a wedding and determined that they should work together. What we have is a very hazy and wandering JJ Cale-influenced jam. Taylor and Gunn share vocal duties and Hirsh brings a compliment of keyboards and analog electronics to the mix. Excellent go-to release for some mellow jams– Gunn’s vocals remind me of Beck on his more listenable days.

Brokeback – Brokeback and the Black Rock – (on my releases I’m Looking Forward to for 2013) – Who knew that Doug McCombs (of Tortoise and Eleventh Dream Day) had another album of his Bass VI-driven instrumentals in him? A complete re-envisioning of Brokeback with new members provides one of my favorite instrumental releases in a while, frankly and the most consistent Brokeback release since the debut album Field Recordings from the Cook County Water Table. I had a chance to talk to McCombs when he came to Iowa City with David Daniell for their tour in support of Sycamore. McCombs is a huge fan of the Tom Verlaine album Warm and Cool (and was instrumental in getting that re-issued on Thrill Jockey). This album’s reverbby clean guitar and bass recalls Warm and Cool whether that was the intention or not.

The Horses Ha – Waterdrawn – (on my releases I’m Looking Forward to for 2013) – This album had been in the works for a couple of years. Since I help them with their Facebook page I got a chance to preview a couple of these tracks last year, so I was anticipating the release. Janet Bean (of Freakwater and Eleventh Dream Day) and James Elkington (of The Zincs and lends a hand with Freakwater, Brokeback and Daughan Gibson) return with their 70’s British folk-influenced music. Janet and James bring some really gorgeous melodies and harmonies to the stripped down acoustic music. As crazy as the music industry seems and all of the “end is nigh” sentiments surrounding the ability for musicians to put music out, it is heartening to see an admittedly-niche release like this seeing the light of day– let alone in such a beautiful packaging by label Fluff and Gravy.

Jack Logan and Scott Baxendale – Bones in the Desert – (on my releases I’m Looking forward to for 2013) – A bit of a disclaimer– I help Jack and Scott with their Facebook page and wrote their press release. That said, I did it because it is such a great record! I’ve been a fan of Jack Logan since Bulk and have had the pleasure of being able to maintain a relationship over the internet with him. He’s one-of-a-kind– a serial song writer and recorder. The mountain of work suggested by sorting through his vast catalog of releases and unreleased songs is 2nd only to Neil Young (one would suppose). He admits to needing more of a filter sometimes and when he does– like working with a great songwriter and guitarist like Scott Baxendale, the results are even more trademark Logan it seems. Guitar-rock with 70’s influences like the Stones or The Faces bolted to a uniquely Logan sense of humor and storytelling. Logan and Baxendale are pretty-well known members of the Athens music scene, so they were able to draw other talented musicians to help out with the release– which only exists physically on vinyl BTW– so we have a couple of Drive-By Truckers in the mix. Super limited release of 500 on vinyl so don’t sleep on this one if you’re a fan like I am! Jack and Scott are already working on new songs and plan to release something in 2014, but it won’t be on vinyl (at least not until they sell out of the Bones vinyl!)

Mountains – Centralia (on my releases I’m Looking forward to for 2013) – For a band who is two guys with guitars and an endless set of loopers and effects, they have a fairly wide palate of sonic landscapes from which to draw. When their Thrill Jockey debut Choral came out I was immediately a fan. I have all of their releases to date, but I feel like Centralia really was a return to some of the song structures that drew me to Mountains to begin with.

Big Star – Nothing Can Hurt Me Soundtrack – It might not be fair to include this release here since it isn’t an album of new songs, but as a compilation (and distillation, I suppose) of Big Star’s notable songs it totally works. The documentary film from which it is drawn is a must-see as a primer of one of pop rock’s most obscure but no less influential bands. I picked up one of the really rare orange translucent vinyl pressings done for Record Store Day in April by Omnivore Records. You can get a black vinyl version from them now.

Arbouretum – Coming Out of the Fog – (on my releases I’m Looking forward to for 2013) Right now, my three favorite guitar bands on Thrill Jockey are Wooden Shjips, Pontiak and Arbouretum. All three have a distorted psychedelic sound that I really dig and I listen to them in rotation quite a bit. Arbouretum tends to lean towards a prog-rock/prog-folk sound and Dave Heumann has really polished that sound on Coming Out of the Fog.

Jimi Hendrix – People, Hell & Angels – This was a somewhat contraversial release as far as diehard Hendrix fans are concerned. They consider this to be a kind of cash-in by the Experience Hendrix organization. EH says that this is a release of unreleased Jimi Hendrix songs post-Electric Ladyland and is presented as kind of a picture of where Hendrix was going with his sound rather than something that might have been released as an album. If you want to know what Hendrix was likely considering for the next album, you should look at the 1997 compilation of tracks titled First Rays of the New Rising Sun. The tracks on People, Hell & Angels are also tracks recorded around the same time as the First Rays material. As far as the “unreleased” statement is concerned, it would appear that most of this material has surfaced in some form or another dating back to the some would say pillaging of the Hendrix tape vaults by Reprise Records from 1971 to 1975 as well as the Sony compilations in the 1990’s Blues and Voodoo Soup. In addition there are two songs which aren’t really Hendrix songs as such, he played on them around the same time as these other songs. So, effectively this is the last of the studio songs not released by Experience Hendrix (assuming no other Dagger Records releases, which are “official bootlegs” done by EH).

Aside from all of that political mess, the release is surprisingly pleasant to listen to. A lot of effort was spent making the songs sound consistent and as if they were intended for one album. Quite a bit of work was done by Eddie Kramer to assemble these tracks from different takes to make them since most of this release was not finished at the time of Hendrix’s death. It is really great to hear a kind of stripped down to the essentials version of Hendrix– no psychedelic effects on these songs. In fact, this release really shows the guitarist that Hendrix was maybe more so than the previous albums and puts a finer point on his electric blues love.

Califone – Stitches – Califone came back in 2013 with their first non-soundtrack album since their fantastic 2006 album on Thrill Jockey Roots & Crowns. Their last album was the soundtrack to the film “All My Friends are Funeral Singers” which I really wasn’t a fan of. Stitches brings the band back to songs that aren’t burdened with some kind of vague overarching concept or having to support a film for that matter. In other words, the songs stand on their own and make for a great listen from side to side and stands up as a great companion to Roomsound, which is my favorite release out of their catalog (big ups to Thrill Jockey for reissuing Roomsound on vinyl as part of their 20th Anniversary celebration!)

William Tyler – Impossible Truth – William Tyler is a noted sideman from Nashville. He’s probably best known as one of the sidemen in Lambchop and The Silver Jews, he also lends the occasional hand in Hiss Golden Messenger. In addition to bringing his Telecaster-based atmospherics for other bands, he has his own solo career and has put out a couple of really amazing guitar instrumental albums on Merge Records– one of them 2013’s Impossible Truth. Recommended if you’re a fan of the American Primitive style guitar work of Leo Koettke or John Fahey.

Arcade Fire – Reflektor – Arcade Fire continues to be the band that knows how to use social media and mystery to hype a release. Their 9/9/9 campaign coupled with some strategic radio and TV appearances including a Saturday Night Live stint and the following “TV Special “Here Comes the Night Time” certainly drew some attention from me. I loved The Suburbs and it’s attendent theme of, well whatever they didn’t like, and Reflektor still exhibits some of those themes, although this time they are pulling from Haitian music for influence. Overall the record is really well done, and even in its weaker moments (and it has some to be certain) the album is still really engaging. Arcade Fire is typically accused of having really huge egos and really it is that kind of audacity that can produce an album like this. I compare this album to Talking Heads’ final album Blind which also pulls some similar rhythms in its Carribbean and South American influences.

Lissie – Back to Forever – Lissie has had an impressive streak of releases so far starting with her debut album Catching a Tiger in 2010, followed by some great covers (“Bad Romance” upstages Gaga’s in my opinion) which were collected in 2012’s Covered Up With Flowers. Lissie provided very distinctive backing vocals on the Snow Patrol album Fallen Empires which was a favorite of mine and was produced by Jacknife Lee (who also produced the two Tired Pony albums). When I heard that Jacknife was producing Back to Forever, my expectations were pretty high and I wasn’t disappointed! The album has Lissie pretty much pissed off all the way through it and the results harken back to a time when strong women wrote powerful anthemic songs– Pat Benatar and Stevie Nicks come easily to mind. Every song on this record is a winner and I can play this album pretty much every day and not get tired of it. I got Sherry a copy on CD for her car and she plays it as much as she plays Lyrics Born (that’s a lot, folks!)

Cheynne Mize – Among the Grey – Speaking of strong anthemic songwriting– Cheyenne Mize (no “Marie” apparently) signed to Yep Roc and released a brilliant follow up to her 2010 album Fall to Rise and 2011’s We Don’t Need EP. Where those two releases showed her versatility in instruments and style, Among the Grey shows Mize is an out-and-out rocker sounding sonically grungy like this year’s answer to PJ Harvey. Beautiful record.

Love Over Gold – Fall to Rise – Continuing our “Girl Power” section is Pieta Brown’s first side project Love Over Gold. Named after a Dire Straits album and song, Pieta partnered up with Aussie musician Lucie Thorne for a barebones duo. Pieta met Lucie during a tour of Australia a few years back and thought that collaborating would work. It does. Lucie’s style is a perfect fit for Pieta and this album is filled with beautful vocal harmonies and emotion. I wrote a review of Fall to Rise for Little Village (here).

Caroline Smith – Half About Being a Woman – Minnesota artist Caroline Smith released three albums from 2008 to 2011. For her latest album Half About Being a Woman, she changed things up by making an album influenced by 70’s and 80’s R&B– a departure from her more indie folk-sounding previous albums. The whole process and struggle (she was worried she’d alienate her fanbase) is documented in the half-hour documentary “My Way Back Home.”  Personally, I really love the direction she is going– it’s great to her her sing out and belt some of these songs!

The Shouting Matches – Grownass Man – I was torn about whether to put this album on the list or Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) other 2013 release as part of Volcano Choir – Repave. Both are almost opposite ends of the spectrum. The Shouting Matches is a stripped-down blues-influenced affair– similar to Black Keys. Repave is Volcano Choir’s 2nd release and it owes more of a debt to Bon Iver than the previous album did, in my opinion. When it gets down to it, I listened to both quite a bit, but I find Grownass Man to be more satisfying (and more entertaining) in its straightforward direction. Even though the Bon Iver moniker is on hiatus indefiniately, I’m happy to see Vernon is still creating music and producing.

Dawes – Stories Don’t End – Album #3 from Dawes finds the band setting off on their own having stepped away from their label ATO. Lots of quotes from Taylor Goldsmith about trying to change the widespread idea that they are somehow indelibly a 70’s throwback band (my words) and lifting off the mantle of “Laurel Canyon Sound” that they acquired when PR people didn’t know what to say about their first album and its obvious influences. That said, Stories Don’t End is not really a departure from the first two albums. If anything, it is a continuation and maturity of the band who is coming to grips with their identity and sound. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what the external reviewers and PR people portray about Dawes because what really matters is strong songwriting, amazing vocal harmonies and live shows. It’s probably a good thing that three albums in, Dawes isn’t trying to shake things up dramatically– they aren’t even 30 yet!

The 4onthefloor – Spirit of Minneapolis – Album #2 from the Twin Cities storming blues rock band and their signature crazy-eyed spirit is still in tact. In a similar fashion to their first album 4×4, the songs on Spirit of Minneapolis have been percolating in their live sets dating back to the 4×4 days and I’d say that the songs are pretty much interchangable between the two albums. It’s not a criticism as much as an observation. If you love 4onthefloor, you’ll love this album, too. Gabe Douglas has been working on an album from his side-project Silverback Colony which should come out in 2014, I suspect.

Wooden Shjips – Back to Land – A band I kind of slept on until this album came out. Like I said above, Wooden Shjips is one of my favorite new guitar-based bands on Thrill Jockey along with Pontiak and Arbouretum. All three bands lean towards layered distortion and psychedelic rock. If you’re a fan of the “stoner rock” or “desert rock” genre with bands like Queens of the Stone Age or Fu Manchu this band fits right in, though they’ve never been tagged as such that I’m aware. The vinyl packaging for this record is fantastic– die-cut outer slip jacket exposes the art on the inner sleeve similar to Led Zeppelin covers from the 70’s. My copy is one of the limited pink vinyl pressings which is pretty cool.

Releases I’m Looking Forward to in 2013

The month of January was named after the Roman goddess Janus who had two faces.  Like the goddess, January is the month of the year when we both look back on the previous year that is over as well as ahead to the year coming up. I just posted my favorite releases for 2012— here is a list of releases that I’m looking forward to in 2013.

Mountains Centralia (January 22) The Brooklyn duo of Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp is back with another couple of slabs of acoustic/electronic experimental ambient music (a couple of slabs in the vinyl version anyway). I’ve been a big fan since Choral and can’t wait to get this on the turntable.

Camper Van BeethovenLa Costa Perdida (January 22) David Lowery’s non-Cracker concern is back with its first release since New Roman Times in 2004.

Arbouretum Coming Out of the Fog (January 22) David Heumann is back with another slab of his folk-inspired distortion. If you are one of the early orders at Thrill Jockey, the vinyl comes in “Fog White” – I have one and it is beautiful.

Brokeback Brokeback and the Black Rock (January 22) – Doug McCombs of Tortoise and Eleventh Dream Day returns with his solo project, Brokeback. Started in 1997, Brokeback had two 7″es and three albums, with the last one out in 2003. Ten years later, Brokeback is resurrected in a new lineup which includes Pete Croke and Chris Hansen of Head of Skulls! (emphasis theirs) and James Elkington of The Zincs, The Horses Ha and Freakwater. The album is typical atmospheric reverbby guitar instrumentals.

Local NativesHummingbird (January 29) – The Local Natives are back with their sophomore release. I loved their first album Gorilla Manor, and got to see them during the first Daytrotter Barnstormer tour. They managed to tour for two years on that album. If the first track “Breakers” is any indication, Hummingbird is a strong followup.

Jacob JonesGood Timin’ In Waynetown (January 29) – Just in time for the hubbub over Nashville due to the ABC TV series of the same name, Jacob Jones is releasing his first album in two years. Instead of his typical roadworn acoustic folk country, he hit the studio with an album inspired by the classic R&B of Ray Charles and the “Keep On Movin'” parties on Monday nights at The 5 Spot.

Hiss Golden MessengerHaw (April 2) – MC Taylor and Scott Hirsch are on a roll. After a very polished release of Poor Moon in 2011 which was followed by a collection of odds and sods in 2012 called Lord, I Love the Rain they are done with another release Haw, which is due to come out on April 2nd and has members of Megafaun on it. Look for a review by me soon.

Golden Gunn – TBD (April) – As if a Hiss Golden Messenger release isn’t enough, Scott and MC are collaborating with Steve Gunn on an album which, from the sounds of the little bit I heard, will be more jamming and more stripped down (if that is possible).

Dawes Stories Don’t End (April 9)- The mighty Dawes return for a third album. This time they are releasing the album themselves through their management Q Prime— their first two albums were released by Dave Matthews’ label ATO. I’ve heard a couple songs from the new album live already, and it’s sounding like a great one. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Taylor Goldsmith said, “Obviously we have our influences, and I know that some of what we do as a band is of another time, even simple aspects like guitar solos. So I get it, I’m not mad at it, but at the same time, we just wanted to make sure people saw us as a modern band as well. With this album, thanks to what [producer] Jacquire [King] is really good at, we’re able to stay a rock & roll band and maintain classic qualities, but at the same time, it makes sense that this record is coming out in 2013.”

Jack Logan & Scott Baxendale – Bones in the Desert (TBD) – Jack Logan is back with his first release since 2006 or so. This time he’s partnered up with Athens, GA master guitar luthier Scott Baxendale. Joining them on the record are members of Drive By Truckers.

The Right Now – EP (First Half of 2013) In an interview with Chicagoverse, Brendan O’Connell says that the Chicago R&B band has demos collected that they can draw from to make an EP!

Dick Prall – Dick is releasing a song-per month, which he kicked off in October of 2012. The plan is to make the songs freely downloadable with a full-album of the tracks plus some bonuses available at the end of 2013.

Horses Ha – TBD – Carried over from last year’s list. The album is pretty much complete and a continuation of the first album Of The Cathmawr Yards. Here’s hoping that Janet and James, coming off the recent Freakwater tour will be energized and ready to release this.

History – (First half of 2013) The remains of the Iowa City band The Wandering Bears have formed a new band called History.

Har-di-Har – Third EP/LPI loved the first two EP’s released by the Cedar Falls husband/wife duo Har-di-Har. The third EP in the series is supposed to come out pretty soon. Andrew Thoreen told me that the plan is to bundle the three EP’s together into a physical release (possibly vinyl!).

Upcoming Show: Mountains at The Picador in Iowa City 2/1/10

Koen Holtkamp and Brendon Anderegg of Mountains
Last year on April 24th, Mountains made their first Iowa appearance at The Picador headlining a lineup of experimental electronic musicians. They performed a piece that would become Etching, which was released by Thrill Jockey on limited edition vinyl only and is currently out-of-print.

Koen told me via e-mail they will be playing a new composition for this tour that they debuted during their recent tour of Europe. This new composition does not include their laptops  as they implemented in past shows, which will be interesting. More knob twiddling in their extensive effects pedal arrays, I imagine!

Mountains is returning to the Midwest at the end of January as part of a tour that will kick off in Buffalo, NY and wrap up with a run of East Coast dates ending on February 11th in Boston. They’ll be hitting Chicago at the Empty Bottle on January 28th,  Omaha on the 29th at the Bemis Center, Northfield, MN at the Cave which is on the Carleton College Campus on the 30th, The Project Lodge in Madison, WI on the 31st, then Iowa City at the Picador on Monday, February 1st. The Empty Bottle show will have David Daniell and Doug McCombs whose Thrill Jockey release Sycamore (still available on LP!) is one of my favorites from TJ last year! I wish they were continuing on tour with them so I could catch them in Iowa City! (update: David said that they are planning a trip out here in early March! Stay tuned!)

Supporting Mountains on this run is Swedish trio Tape. Tape is an ambient band that features guitars in kind of an Eno-esque fashion. They’ve been producing their music since 2000 and has been steadily growing their fanbase. They have a penchant for vinyl and their last brilliant release Luminarium and their upcoming release with Bill Wells Fugue are both available in limited vinyl pressings on Immune Recordings. I’m hoping they bring some with them on tour! Be sure to check out some of Tape’s music on their MySpace Page. I’ve been listening to their songs for the past couple of days and really like the dreamy atmospherics.

Click Here for Mountains’ Website

Click Here for Mountains’ MySpace Page

Click Here for Tape’s Website.

Tour Dates (from Thrill Jockey)

Wed    Jan 27    Buffalo, NY     – Soundlab    w/ Tape
Thu    Jan 28    Chicago, IL    – Empty Bottle    w/ Tape
Fri    Jan 29    Omaha, NE    – Bemis Center for the Contemporary Arts    w/ Tape
Sat    Jan 30    Northfield, MN    – The Cave @ Carleton College    w/ Tape
Sun    Jan 31    Madison, WI    – The Project Lodge    w/ Tape
Mon    Feb 1    Iowa City, IA    – The Picador    w/ Tape
Wed    Feb 3    Louisville, KY    – Skull Alley    w/ Tape
Thu    Feb 4    Lexington, KY    – Al’s Bar    w/ Tape
Fri    Feb 5    Knoxville, TN    – The Pilot Light    w/ Tape
Sat    Feb 6    Chapel Hill, NC    – Nightlight    w/ Tape
Mon    Feb 8    Washington, DC    – Bossa    w/ Tape
Tue    Feb 9    Philadelphia, PA    – The Chapel @ First Unitarian    w/ Tape
Wed    Feb 10    New York, NY    – Le Poisson Rouge (Unsound Festival)    w/ Tape, Radian, Tim Hecker
Thu    Feb 11    Boston, MA    – TBA

B-Sides in the Bins #43 – Record Store Day 4/18/2009

Record Store Day Crawl #1 for Record Store Day 2009 went mostly without a hitch and certainly I look forward to next year! My friends Erik and Alex were my companions for the trip which made for a pretty great day.

The plan was to hit the two record stores in Dubuque and the one in Iowa City since those were the closest to Cedar Rapids. I had originally hoped to hit Zzz Records in Des Moines, but that would have made for a very long day. I had called the three stores last week to see which of the special release items they were planning to get. Only Mike at Moondog Music was able to give the the full list as he had gotten most of his ordered inventoried already, the other two stores hadn’t gotten theirs, yet. Based on the reported opening times of the stores, I decided to hit CD’s 4 Change in Dubuque first since they were going to open at 10AM, followed by Moondog Music at 11AM and then we’d beat it to Iowa City to hit Real Records and hopefully be wrapped up before 4PM.

I got up early and picked up Erik and Alex. We hit Croissant du Jour to get coffees and French pastries for the road. We made it to CD’s 4 Change at 9:30AM and hung around for a bit to see if they’d open. 10AM rolled around and no sign of anyone opening. So, we walked over to Uncle Ike’s Music which was kitty-corner from the record store. When I lived in Dubuque in the 90’s I spent a lot of time at Uncle Ike’s when they were downtown. The store was pretty busy for early on Saturday morning and they had a very impressive collection of guitars at great prices. Erik picked up some patch cables and Alex bought a neat Oscar Schmidt OU2 ukulele while we waited. Ike’s had a pretty interesting collection of used Stratocasters including A white ’85 MIJ with black head and locking nut for $369, and this pristine ’94 40th Anniversary for $899, complete with 40th badging.

We headed back over to CD’s 4 Change and at that time someone pulled up and opened the store. I asked about the special orders for today, and they had a very small collection of items. The owner stated that he didn’t order any of the major label releases and didn’t order any of the Sub Pop either. He didn’t get any of the Thrill Jockey Records Toreism 12″s. He had the Pavement Live LP as well as the Touch and Go Jesus Lizard Inch 7″ box set, and had both of the Sonic Youth split singles. Not a great showing of those releases, but he was having a $2-off of all new vinyl, which was great, and Erik bought a slug of records as they have an impressive new vinyl release selection. Erik was able to pick up The Sea and Cake Everybody album, which was cool as it has been out-of-print for a couple of years. I would have picked up the SY singles, but I knew that Mike at Moondog had them for $1 cheaper.

Flipping through the new and used LP’s I found a bunch of interesting pieces, and if I wasn’t trying to stay under a budget that needed to include the exclusive releases I would have picked up some of these: a still sealed Ventures Walk Don’t Run on United Artists! ($50, even with the $2 off, it was a bit too pricey for me), R.E.M. Reckoning and Life’s Rich Pageant for $8 and $10. I don’t have these on vinyl today, but I’m holding out for ones with better covers, The Moody Blues Days of Future Past for $2– Minty cover and LP with plastic inner sleeve. It’s a later pressing under PolyGram. I just about bought it, but do I need a fourth copy of this? They also had the Beastie Boys 2 LP reissue of Check Your Head, which I’d like to pick up at some point. They also had Pink Floyd The Wall and The Final Cut for over $10 apiece. I have neither of these, and would have snagged The Wall if it weren’t for the scratch on one of the LP’s. I had briefly considered picking up some Ryan Adams vinyl– they had Demolition and Gold which would have been $10.99 during their sale.
Moondog Music
We departed for Moondog Music while the sky started spitting. We never did get the real rain that was predicted– just enough to piss you off and make it muggy. We stopped in around 11:30ish and although Mike wasn’t in yet, he had a bag prepared with “MIKE (CEDAR RAPIDS)” written on it with all of the pieces that we discussed on the phone as well as a bunch of really cool freebies! Talk about service! We flipped through the used and new vinyl in the store, Moondog has a great selection of new vinyl as well. I’m beginning to think I need to make some runs to Dubuque just to go record shopping. In the bins: The new crazy reissue of Beck’s Odelay in a box set with 4 LP’s for $99. I’d love to have this piece in my collection but it didn’t fit in my budget. Here is what I picked up at Moondog Music:

Various Artists – Records Toreism (12″, Thrill Jockey 12.30, 2009) ($12.99) Gorgeous hand-screened cover, four tracks from TJ artists old and new. Brand new Tortoise track “High Class Slim Came Floatin’ In” from the upcoming Beacons of Ancestorship album, “Window” by Mountains is unreleased as well as the Double Dagger track “Stagger Lee” and the Trans Am track “Wounded Monkey.” This is the first Thrill Jockey appearance of recent signings White Hills with “Eye to Eye” which was previously on a tour-only CD-R called Abstractions and Mutations. Included in the sleeve with the record are two photocopied booklets. The first little booklet is a manifesto of sorts called “Recordstoreism” on visiting your record store frequently and is apparently an anti-iPod perspective as well with iPod-and-crossbones logos and “..knock down to the Pod Peddlers!! Zombies tethered to headphones. Wandering Wastrels whose auditory corridors are clogged with wax.” The second booklet called “Whatisinstore” is emblazoned with a bunch of indie record store names inside of which are essays by artists and store workers alike about record stores. I think I found most of the stores I’ve been to: Jazz Record Mart, Cheapo’s, Electric Fetus, Moondog Records (s.i.c.),  Hard Boiled, Laurie’s Planet of Sound, Reckless Records, The Record Collector, Mad City Music Exchange, Treehouse Records, Zzz Records, Newbury Comics… They included Rolling Stones, but I didn’t see any Thrill Jockey at their store when I was there last month. I didn’t see Real or CD’s 4 Change on there. Maybe you can special order TJ there. A very cool piece very much in the spirit of the day.

Tom Waits – Live Glitter & Doom Tour 2008 (7″, Anti- Records 87018-7, 2009) ($5.98) I don’t really collect Tom Waits, but this was a pretty neat release. “Lucinda / Ain’t Going Down To The Well” from Atlanta, backed by “Bottom of the World” from Edinburgh, Scotland.

Bob Dylan – “Dreamin’ Of You” / “Down Along the Cove” (7″ Columbia 8697-50225-7, 2009)($6.98) “Dreamin’ of You” is from last year’s great Tell-Tale Signs – Bootleg Series Volume 8 release. It was the lead off track that was sort of a single. Produced by Lanois as part of the Time Out of Mind sessions. “Down Along the Cove” is a John Wesley Harding track that Dylan did for his 2004 Bonnaroo appearance. This track previously appeared on the Bonnaroo 2004 compilation CD. Includes a photo of Dylan.

Whiskeytown – “San Antone” / “The Great Divide” (7″ Geffen B00128170-21, 2009)($5.98) “Limited Edition Produced Exclusively for Record Store Day 2009” – two unreleased tracks from Ryan Adams’s pre-solo, pre-Cardinals band Whiskeytown. These are two tracks from the Baseball Park sessions that would make up Whiskeytown’s first album Faithless Street in 1995. When Faithless Street was reissued in 1998 by Outpost, it included Baseball Park tracks which were produced by Chris Stamey (from the dB’s). These two tracks were not part of those. Really nice hard sleeve that reproduces the Faithless Street cover photograph taken by Ryan.

The Sonik Youth / Beck – “Pay No Mind” / “Green Light” (7″ Matador OLE 865-7, 2009)($5.98) Limited edition (2500) split single. Sonic Youth covers “Pay No Mind” from Beck’s Mellow Gold, and Beck covers “Green Light” from Sonic Youth’s EVOL album.

Iron & Wine – Norfolk 6/20/05 (CD, Sub Pop SPCD 839, 2009)($7.99) Super-cute CD made to look like a mini-Sub Pop singles club release. Iron & Wine live during their 2005 tour after the release of Woman King EP. A sticker on the wrap mentions the upcoming release Around the Well, which will be a compilation of B-Sides and Rarities due out May 19th and will be followed by a tour. The cover art also mentions playedlastnight.com which is a place where you can purchase shows by Iron & Wine as well as The Swell Season.

The Jesus Lizard – INCH (8 x 7″, Touch and Go tg347, 2009)($29.99) Limited, numbered edition (256 / 2000) I will admit that I haven’t been a big fan of The Jesus Lizard, but will readily admit their influence on a lot of bands that I’ve listened to. Touch and Go records created this amazing “box set” of all of the singles release during The Jesus Lizard’s time on Touch and Go. All of the singles have been out-of-print for over six years, apparently. The singles have been remastered by Bob Westin and include reproductions of the original sleeves and are included in this really great clear plastic package that houses them, or could be used to display them as it has metal eyelets at the top. Gorgeous, if bittersweet release from Touch and Go as this will be one of the last new releases from the label until economic times improve. They are hoping to do reissues of the Jesus Lizard LP catalog in August, too.

In addition to the releases I purchased, Moondog included a recycled bag from WEA made of 60% post industrial and consumer recycled content full of freebies which included:

Various Artists – Happy Birthday to Me – SP20 – Terminal Sales Vol 3 (CD, SubPop SPCD 779, 2008) ($0) Super-cool CD celebrating 20 years of Sub Pop Records. Comes in a neat gatefold sleeve. 18 tracks of Sub Pop artists including Mudhoney, Wolf Parade, No Age, Blitzen Trapper, Flight of the Conchords, as well as a birthday card we are supposed to fill out and mail to Sub Pop and an SP20 sticker taboot!

Various Artists – Bloodshot Catalog Sampler (CD, Bloodshot Records, 2008)($0) Compilation of artists on Bloodshot Records. Bloodshot is the home of Jay Farrar of Son Volt, Sally Timms, Kelly Hogan, Split Lip Rayfield and Andre Williams among others. Bloodshot is also handling the vinyl reissue of  Ryan Adams’s Heartbreaker. Reissued as a 2 LP gatefold! Home of Dexter Romweber Duo and Ha Ha Tonka, too.

Various Artists – Live Your Life with Verve (CD, Verve Music Group VERR01591-2, 2008)($0) A compilation of artists on the Verve label(s). Includes the Diplo remix of Mariena Shaw’s “California Soul” which was on the Verve Remixed 4 compilation. “California Soul” was included in Brainfreeze by DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist, too.

Beat Union – Disconnected (CD, Science Records 426428-2, 2008)($0) Pop-Punk outfit from the UK. Disconnected is their debut release under the band’s new moniker as Beat Union. They used to be called Shortcut to Newark. This release was produced by Goldfinger frontman John Feldman. I haven’t listened to this, yet. If it rocks, I’ll review it.

“You Think You Really Know Me – The Gary Wilson Story” (DVD + CD, Plexifilm 032, 2008)($0) Wow, this is a pretty cool freebie. In 1977 Gary Wilson recorded a crazy outsider-art experimental album and effectively dropped off the face of the recording industry. A bunch of noted artists including Beck start talking about him and the renewed interest in him causes folks to look for him. This is the documentary about his return to recording and includes the seminal You Think You Really Know Me album. He apparently recorded an album for Stones Throw in 2004 as well.

Other goodies in the bag included a Touch and Go Records sticker, a Bloodshot Records Sticker, a drink coaster promoting the Oasis album Dig Out Your Soul, a sticker promoting the Hank III record Damn Right, Rebel Proud, a rolled poster for Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky album, a folded poster for Mogwai’s The Hawk Is Howling album, and a temporary tattoo that says “Jesus Loves Scott H. Biram” with praying hands that is a Bloodshot Records promo for Scott H. Biram. Also got the Dec ’08/Dec ’09 Paste Magazine.

What a very cool collection of freebies! Thanks Moondog Music!

From there we headed to Kennedy Mall to get burgers and beers at the Mining Company. Still the great burgers and fries I remembered from the 90’s. Our hunger sated, we made the hour-and-a-half drive to Iowa City for the Real Records stop. We listened to the Iron & Wine CD on the way there.

Real! CD's and Records

I hadn’t been to Real since it’s coming back in business. Real! originally opened in 1986, and I remember frequenting it along with The Record Collector and BJ’s back then. Sadly, BJ’s is gone, and Real! was gone for a while, too. It’s been back for three years (I think) under new management by Craig Kessler, who is also a DJ on the Jazz station KCCK-FM.

Real is now abutted with a book store, which is pretty cool. When we stopped there I didn’t spend any time in the book store, but certainly will next time I’m in town. The store itself is jam-packed with product, but has a laid-back cozy kind of feel. Lots of new and used vinyl and CDs. Craig still had some of the Record Store day exclusives in although he said a lot of it was already bought. He had the Talking Heads 77 180g vinyl as well as the Jane’s Addiction vinyl reissues of Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual (which aren’t really exclusive, but were released Saturday), and had the Columbia 7″es for Dylan and Springsteen as well as the Rhino 7″es making this the only place I saw these. Here’s what I picked up:

MC5 – “Kick Out The Jams” / “Motor City Is Burning” (7″, Rhino Entertainment R-21481, 2009) ($5.99) Very cool reissue of the seminal 1969 MC5 single on Elektra for “Kick Out The Jams.” Notable for the use of word “motherf*uckers” in the intro shout. The flipside is a cover of the John Lee Hooker song “Motor City is Burning.” According to the Wikipedia article on the MC5, there was a single for radio that replaced the intro explitive with “brothers and sisters.”

New Order – “Temptation” / “Hurt” (7″, Rhino Entertainment R-21479, 2009)($5.99) Another cool reissue from Rhino. This is a repressing of New Order’s 1982 Factory Records single for “Temptation” and “Hurt” (aka Fac63) This represents the first time this single has been released domestically in the US. The notable fact being that New Order used different mixes for every version of a release, so any version released in the US could be different from the UK versions. I have the original Fac63 12″ which is die stamped, so this is a nice companion to that.

Pieta Brown – Flight Time (CD, T Records, 2008)($11.99) Not a Record Store Day exclusive. Kind of pricey for a 7-track EP, but I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to pick this one up since Pieta’s touring schedule doesn’t seem to mesh with my life schedule. This EP is a really good companion to her last album Remember the Sun. This is self-released. I wonder what this means about future releases? One Little Indian seems to be staying up-to-date on her touring schedule, so that implies a current relationship.

While I was flipping though the bins, I found a copy of the out-of-print Mountains vinyl for $16.99 which I was tempted to pick up. They also had the last Sea & Cake album Car Alarm and the Human Bell LP. So, this is a good place to pick up Thrill Jockey releases. Craig was playing the relatively obscure Miles Davis Big Fun album. I’d never heard of it, but recognized it as Davis. The release had been regarded at it’s 1974 release as being a filler release. The sessions were recorded in 1969, 1970 and 1972. These session included quite a few jazz heavyweights: Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, John McLaughlin and Ron Carter amongst the large list of performers. The version he was playing was a Japanese Sony version of the original album. In 2000 it was re-released with other sessions recorded between Bitches Brew and Tribute to Jack Johnson expanding the release to a 2 CD version. So, this particular visit did what a record store visit should do– educate! I’ve already done some looking into Big Fun and will probably at least download it, and keep an eye out for a vinyl version.

So, all-in-all a sucessful day! I’m glad I got to do this run and big thanks to Erik and Alex for coming along and making it much more fun than it would have been by myself. Stay tuned for next year’s Record Store Day Crawl!

New Tortoise on Record Store Day Special Release

Cover by Crosshair

Cover by Posttypography

Cover by Posttypography

In celebration of National Record Store Day, Thrill Jockey is getting in on the action by releasing a very limited edition (900 copies) LP (really more of an EP) called Records Toreism which will be blessed with catalog number Thrill 12.30. [Note: Thrill 12.29 was the Thrill Jockey 15th Anniversary Trey Told ‘Em MegaMix]

Thrill Jockey is using the occasion to showcase some of their newest acts as well as include a new track from Tortoise’s upcoming release (now pushed to June) and a Trans Am track. Here are the tracks as Thrill Jockey calls them:

A
1. Mountains “Windows”
This is a new song that does not appear any place else. It was recorded with love for the record store.

2. Tortoise “High Class Slim Came Floatin’ In”
This is a new song. It will also appear on their new album in June. Released early with love for the record store.

AA
1. Double Dagger “Stagger Lee”
This is a new song that does not appear any place else. It was recorded with love for the record store.

2. White Hills “Eye to Eye”
“Eye To Eye” was previously released on Abstractions & Mutations, a limited edition CD-R release put together for a tour in September of 2007. Released for the first time on LP with love for the record store.

3. Trans Am Featuring Tim Soete “Wounded Monkey”
This is an unreleased song recorded and mixed March 28, 2005 at MAINZ in Auckland, New Zealand. Tim Soete (from The Fucking Champs) on lead guitar and lead vocals. Released with love for the record store.

The covers (shown above) are meant to portray the alternate possible futures of record stores– one is if we don’t continue to shop the local indie store, and the other is the optimistic future afforded us from spending money not at Best Buy, but at our favorite Indie store. The covers will be handmade, and hand printed by Crosshair.

Of course, yours truly is drooling over this release. The trick is going to be to figure out which stores will carry this. Neither indie store in Iowa City is participating in Record Store Day on April 18th. However, two stores in Dubuque are, so maybe a trip to my old stomping grounds and the store that I spent many a Tuesday over lunch Moondog Records (known as Co-Op Records back then…)

Click Here for Record Store Day Information

Click Here for the post on the Thrill Jockey boards about Records Toreism

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