The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve: The Alan Parsons Project, Tales of Mystery and Imagination—Edgar Allen Poe

You don’t hear the name bandied about much these days, but when I was an undergraduate and busy getting myself thrown out of the dorms, the Alan Parsons Project were big. A sort of poor man’s Pink Floyd, you could hear their 1976 debut, Tales of Mystery and Imagination—Edgar Allen Poe coming out of every dorm room, generally accompanied by the aroma of reefer. It was, as its title indicates, a concept album, and mixed progressive rock at its most unbearably symphonic with a few cool tracks that could actually pass—with a good fake ID—for rock’n’roll.

The Alan Parsons Project is chiefly remembered for 1977’s I Robot, but by then I had been unceremoniously tossed out of my dorm and was living in a collapsing group house where the ceilings were prone to cave in, and none of us wanted anything to do with it. There was drug music and then there was schlock, and The Alan Parsons’ Project were purveyors of the latter. We were glad to have escaped with our lives.

Not having listened to the damned thing for almost four decades, I was shocked by how well I remembered it. I mean, Tales of Mystery and Imagination might as well be ancient history, as ancient as the Bronze Age Hittites with their chariots and cuneiform texts. But what shocked me even more was how listenable it was. Or at least how listenable parts of it were. In my memory it was almost as bad as Emerson, Lake and Palmer, but say what you will about Parsons he had a populist streak that most all of your pomp rockers lacked, and he wasn’t averse to writing a catchy pop tune.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Ticket Giveaway: Dan Deacon in the city and venue of your choice

TVD DC/HQ’s Baltimore neighbor Dan Deacon is back touring in support of his newest release Gliss Riffer after a stint on tour with Arcade Fire. The electronic artist is well-known for his fun, interactive shows that embrace audience participation.

In his interview with us a couple of years ago, Deacon said, “I always think about the crowd as an element of the show like a parameter of the piece. The same way with the music or the PA system and the audience, the room, where the various exits are, and what we can partially do. The audience plays a huge role in that. I do a thing in the beginning that I call ‘synchronicity,’ to try and synchronize the crowd. We all get on the same page and from that I try to gauge if the audience is down for participation and interaction, or more of an audience that wants to watch.”

During his visit to DC last summer at Howard Theatre, Deacon had a dance battle between opposite sides of the audience, with two volunteers in the center of a circle, one leading the moves for each half of the room. When attending one of his shows, you might also catch a glimpse of the vegetable-oil-fueled converted school bus that he uses as his touring vehicle. Want to experience it all for yourself? We have a pair of tickets to give away to three lucky winners to any one show on his tour.

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TVD Cleveland

TVD Recommends:
Wand at Happy Dog, 4/4

Let’s set the scene—it’s Saturday night. You and your friend and/or lover are intent on taking mind altering substances and having a good time. Tomorrow is Sunday, so fuck it… you can go wild. You have said substances, but what should you do to enjoy them?

A. Sit in your living room staring at a wall and wondering if aliens exist.
B. Go to the beach and freeze to death while pondering the vastness of water to land ratio on the Earth.
C. See Wand at Happy Dog.

Don’t be an idiot. Choose C.

Wand is a psychedelic/garage band from LA that brings a little bit of ’70s era glam flair to the mix with their latest record, Golem. On both Golem, and their previous record Ganglion Reef, there are tons of crazy fantasy/ Dungeons and Dragons/ magical vibes going on that—how do I say this—enhance the mood of the music to fit your state of mind. Both records from the band are excellent, but I’m expecting the live show to be next-level.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve: Blackout, Blackout

The Brooklyn trio Blackout specializes in a particularly heavy form of metal. Additional adjectives applying to their self-titled 7-song long-playing debut: sludgy, dense, thick, doomy. Few will describe them as original, though that’s hardly the objective. Rather, the aim is the inspired exploration of an esteemed style, and to this end Blackout succeeds. It’s out now on RidingEasy Records.

Blackout’s new LP first came to my attention while checking messages on my laptop. In so doing, the thumbnail image of the cover glimpsed above was reduced to roughly the size of, well, a thumbnail, and my immediate reaction before reading any clarifying text was that the email in question was promoting a mid-‘70s-vintage reissue.

It’s likely I would’ve thought the same had I stumbled over the record as I perused the B bin at my local wax shack. For starters, it’s a flat fact that the utilization of band photographs as cover art is far less common than it used to be, and by extension Blackout’s B&W portraiture, and the abundant locks and facial hair it captures, are the focal point of an undeniably retro design motif.

It reinforces the differences in Blackout’s approach, though Sabbath-roots aside the group doesn’t sound like they escaped from the ‘70s. No, part of their distinctiveness comes down to an undisguised sense of humor, which certainly stands apart in a field known for a high ratio of solemnity. This comic facet is healthy but not obnoxious, for no yuk-meisters are they; once the amps are plugged in and the picks and sticks are in hand, Blackout is a decidedly serious proposition.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 4/1/15

Ah, Record Store Day. “Universal call Record Store Day ‘the single best thing that has ever happened to the indie stores,’” whereas Drenge say Record Store Day has “turned into a swamp of bullshit.” And, “Vinyl Specialists Claim Record Store Day ‘Puts Too Much Strain’ on the Record Industry.” (What say you?)

The vinyl resurgence, Record stores are on the rise again in Chicago: “Whatever the reason for vinyl’s comeback, it doesn’t appear to be disappearing again anytime soon, especially in Chicago. Here are a few of our favorite record stores…”

Calgary to see launch of Beatnik Bus, city’s first mobile record store

Sheffield’s Rare & Racy: the independent music store Jarvis Cocker says it would be ‘a crime to destroy.’ “Despite a 20,000-strong petition, Sheffield City Council recently voted in favour of demolishing this much-loved shop. So what does that say for the future of the city’s so-called ‘independent quarter?'”

GWAR Announce Special Record Store Day Performance As RAWG: “Heavy metal band GWAR have announced a special performance for Record Store Day. Many will be converging on Mesa, Arizona on April 18th for National Record Store Day, and the festivities that accompany the big event.”

Memories of York’s first dedicated record shop, Sound Effect: “Once it was a landmark for York teenagers, now a bench in King’s Square reminds us of Sound Effect; York’s first dedicated record shop…”

“What came first, the music or the misery…” “It’s true, we deal in the business of selling manufactured black discs that are chock full of depression. For every great love song someone wants to rant about I can hit you back with a break-up song that’s a million times better. To be honest most record collectors should be in therapy but we’re most likely too depressed to bother…”

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TVD Chicago

TVD Live: Andrew Jackson Jihad, Chumped, Jeff Rosenstock, The Smith Street Band at the Metro, 3/27

PHOTOS: MICHAEL SOLOMON | Andrew Jackson Jihad came through Chicago’s Metro last Friday, March 27, and they brought a lineup stacked with passionate and lively punk acts. The Smith Street Band, Jeff Rosenstock, and Chumped each provided their own unique style, but there was a distinct common thread shared between all the bands that made for a fantastic overall show.

It had been a couple of years since I’d been to an authentic punk show. Growing up on Long Island, I spent much of my free time going to local punk/ska shows in church basements and neighborhood bars, and these shows taught me that the energy of a great punk show can be something special. When lyrics are shared rather than performed, and when there is a unifying spirit in the room which blurs the line between performer and audience. Friday’s show at the Metro brought back all of these feelings, and reminded me how extraordinary a punk show can be.

Chumped started things off and fit wonderfully as the opener. The female led 4-piece has a sound that lands somewhere between Alkaline Trio and The Get Up Kids, and their upbeat melodies had everyone bobbing their heads. Their catchy “Something About Lemons” contained a strong build-up and climax that landed particularly well with the audience.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD’s 9 weeks of vinyl giveaways, Week 7: Shakey Graves, And The War Came (Signed LP)

As we noted upon the launch of our first of 9 weeks of vinyl giveaways, it’s easy to forget that going on 8 years now when TVD was in its year one (as was Record Store Day) the vinyl medium wasn’t “back,” sales weren’t stellar, and indeed record stores were a fading lot. No, worse actually. Shops we’re closing at such a clip, their disappearance literally informed the launch of the site you’re reading at present.

And as we’ll repeat for 9 weeks—vinyl and record stores go hand in hand. Their shared intrinsic value is the cultural commodity and the bedrock of any local music scene. Don’t believe us though…hit up your locals and the marriage becomes crystal clear. 

But we too have been overwhelmed with the resounding popular and prevalent headlines as to vinyl’s big resurgence, yet they also arrive in tandem with far less rosy headlines such as “Starbucks to Open in Former Bleecker Street Records Space”—and worse, some very bad ideas when one advocates for record shops have, of late, become internet fodder. (Seriously, vinyl subscription clubs are the Carson Daly of record collecting.)

As such, picking up with an old TVD favorite, we’ve lined up 9 (count ‘em, 9) weeks of vinyl giveaways as we count down to Record Store Day 2015 to redouble our efforts to underscore the viability and the inherent need for your local brick and mortar record shops to remain the vibrant community touchstone that they intrinsically are. And while we kinda hate hanging out by the mailbox waiting for a record to show up (unless you’ve ordered it from a mom and pop or directly from a label!) we’re shipping out records for 9 weeks straight as sweet reminders that record stores are literally where it’s at.

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TVD New York City

TVD Live: Blackberry Smoke and The Temperance Movement at Webster Hall, 3/28

In the year 2015, it sometimes seems difficult to locate real and true rock and roll that’s new and isn’t just a regurgitation of rock and roll from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. This difficulty can be accounted for by any number of elements—auto tuning, the decreasing influence of record companies in the world of musical artistry, and MTV.

A while back Portlandia put forth a brilliant take on what had happened to MTV by placing a pre-teen girl in its leadership position as explanation of its ideological demise. The difficulty in question is just that however, a difficulty—not an impossibility. This past Saturday night at Webster Hall in New York City serves as exhibits A through infinity to attest to this latter fact.

Blackberry Smoke, having released four studio albums since its start in 2000, is most often described as a “southern rock” band, which it is—but this categorization seeks to minimize the band when it should be maximized and subsequently lauded. Blackberry Smoke is a straight-up rock and roll group. The band’s sound is derived from lead singer and guitarist’s Charlie Starr’s spot-on command of each song performed, along with support from fellow guitarist Paul Jackson, bassist Richard Turner, keyboard player Brandon Still, and drummer Brit Turner.

Holding All the Roses is the group’s latest release, and a number of tracks were showcased at the Webster Hall gig, including “Let Me Help You (Find the Door),” “Rock and Roll Again,” and “Living in the Song.” A terrifyingly gorgeous rendition of the group’s emotionally melodic work-of-art-track, “The Whippoorwill” would have stolen the show—if surprise guest Robert Randolph hadn’t stepped out to contribute to “Ain’t Got the Blues.”

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The TVD Storefront

The TVD First Date

“Ahh, sweet vinyl memories. I was very, very young, about four, when I started messing around with LPs. I remember the feel of the covers, spending hours just gazing in awe. Since I became a music nerd as a youngster, I can say besides remembering the feel and the smell of those first vinyl, even say I remember the TASTE of vinyl!”

“Both my parents were cool when it came to music. They were into buying records, going to concerts, and talking music. There was constantly music in our home including vinyl and cassettes with bands that were releasing great stuff around that time (this is late ’70s and early ’80s). Notably London Calling by The Clash, Time by ELO, and Dire Straits (Private Investigations) were some of my most vivid first memories. Hearing these albums still hits me hard and all kinds of flashbacks take me back through time. However, the pivotal albums for me around that time came to be Pink Floyd’s Animals and The Wall.

The Wall and Animals not a fit for a child? Emotionally murderous dramatic music and concepts about the deepest and most hard-hitting subjects, made a daycare nanny that was having me around this time very worried and nervous. I remember my parents and the nanny having discussions about whether I was being harmed by listening to ‘adult’ music.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve: Houndstooth,
No News from Home

Houndstooth’s membership hails from numerous points on the North American map, this geographical breadth mirroring musical range that helped to strengthen their 2013 debut. Formed in Portland, OR as a five piece in 2010, in the interim they’ve shed a member, but their follow-up record maintains the diversity of inspiration; indie elements blend with Americana, Classic-rock and psychedelic flourishes as Katie Bernstein’s lead vocals enhance the tunes’ worthiness. No News from Home is out this week on LP/CD/digital via No Quarter.

Houndstooth’s influences are broad but complementary, their music striving for cohesion from inside the melodic rock realm. The sound they make is refreshing and not a bit unusual; at times, in indie terms, Houndstooth can even be described as classicist. To begin, they rely heavily upon strength of material, with each of the band’s full-lengths springing from the songwriting fount of Bernstein and lead guitarist John Gnorski (both originally from Austin).

Graeme Gibson (who moved to Oregon from Canada) plays the drums and produces, and newest edition Cari Palazzolo (also from Austin) rounds out the lineup on bass. Since the group’s inception a pair of contributors have departed the scenario (and on good terms; Courtney Sheedy and Mike Yun, both Detroit to Portland transplants, are listed on Houndstooth’s website as “past pals”), but these changes in personnel haven’t discernibly effected the togetherness of their attack.

All the ingredients were in place for first LP Ride Out the Dark; its stronger moments include the Crazy Horse-tinged “Canary Island,” the crisp Americana of “Wheels on Fire,” the fibrous indie pop of “Strangers,” and the Bernstein showcase “New Illusion.” Additionally, “Francis” could’ve been an entry on a ‘90s Too Pure label sampler, sly Krautrock influence being one of Houndstooth’s aces in the hole, while “Don’t I Know You” tickles the ear like Mazzy Star circa She Hangs Brightly.

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