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Graded on a Curve:
The Smoking Trees,

The Smoking Trees are a duo of decidedly psychedelic disposition hailing from the West Coast berg of Los Angeles. Formed in 2001 and whittled down from a five piece, over a decade elapsed before the arrival of their full-length debut. Thankfully its follow-up required a shorter gestation period; druggy but approachable and sunshiny with undercurrents of strangeness, TST improves substantially on its predecessor. It’s out on LP/CD/digital July 10 via Ample Play.

Martin Nunez and Al Rivera are the two halves comprising The Smoking Trees. Their bio portrays Nunez as something of a mastermind, which is appropriate considering his nickname is Sir Psych; producer and home recorder, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, psychedelia expert and professed record collector, it’s all discernible upon soaking up their 2012’s Acetates.

On the other side of this yin-yang is an ex-punk. Rivera aka L.A.AL was part of the burgeoning East L.A. punk scene, cutting albums in the late-‘90s with groups Dial 69 and Homesick. L.A.AL underwent a musical transformation after meeting Sir Psych, and it shouldn’t be a bit difficult to suss out the new direction; mention of The Left Banke, The Zombies, and “Defecting Grey” by The Pretty Things should clarify the scenario, however.

At an earlier point named Velvet Tuesday & the Good Smells, The Smoking Trees initially functioned as a pleasurable sideline, Al continuing to play in his prior band as Sir Psych worked as a hip-hop producer and as part of his own crew Forensics. But recording persisted, Nunez credited with production, drums, vocals, keys, bass, and psychedelics as Rivera lent guitar, bass, percussion, and vocals.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 7/2/15

A new high rung on the “Man, you’re so fucking isolated” ladder: Trent Reznor compares Apple Music to the “feeling of walking into an independent record shop,” Nine Inch Nails musician discusses the new music streaming service: “I want that feeling of walking into an independent record shop, if there are still any that exist…”

Performed printed and pressed: Making vinyl records from scratch at-station to-station, “Over the course of the four week show, the recordings made in residency (both planned and off the cuff) at The Vinyl Factory Studio at the Barbican’s Art Gallery will make their way down to The VF Press on the ground floor, where they will be pressed onto vinyl in short run editions, each batch matched up with a bespoke and utterly unique sleeve design, realised simultaneously in the graphic design studio upstairs…”

More: Man selling father’s 250,000 vinyl record collection on craigslist, “Vinyl collectors living around Dunkirk, USA with a bit of cash to spare are in for a treat, as a Craigslist seller there is offering his late father’s rather enormous vinyl collection. The old man had collected a mere quarter of a million records in his lifetime…”

More: Vinyl pressing factory opens in Milwaukie, “‘It’s still a specialty market. We’re not talking about mass marketing, you know, the dominant music format. But for a section of music fans, it’s the format of choice… So here we are digging up over 100-year-old technology to make records, to make music.'”

The Chicagoland Record Collectors Show: The next big show is on Sunday, July 19, 2015, “The Chicagoland Record Collectors Show is the perfect place for vinyl enthusiasts and collectors searching for vintage albums and 45’s. A wide range of records and CD’s straight from the dealer to you will be available, including Rock, Jazz, Soul, R & B, Country, Folk and many others. 50-60 dealers with up to 80 tables per show will be at the Best Western Hotel in Hillside to offer a plethora of records, not be equaled at any other Midwest show.”

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The TVD Storefront

TVD In-store: Breaking Benjamin, Meet & Greet at Gallery of Sound, 6/27

You could call it a homecoming of sorts. Wilkes-Barre, PA’s favorite sons, Breaking Benjamin, armed with a brand new record in stores, Dark Before Dawn—their first in 6 years—celebrated its arrival by paying a visit to Wilkes-Barre’s Gallery of Sound record store for an informal fan meet and greet last weekend.

Over 400 strong lined the building on a sunny summer Saturday and had almost anything and everything signed by the band.

We sent TVD’s Doug Seymour into the throng to capture an informal “record store day” with the band, and yep—to get his record signed. —Ed.

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Denim Snakes,
The TVD First Date

“My parents bought me a hi-fi with a record player when I was 7. I got my first 7″ for Christmas that year, it was Cliff Richards’ ‘Mistletoe and Wine.'”

“There were always records in the house because of my Dad. He used to have this Led Zeppelin 3 12″. I remember that from when I was 6 but didn’t listen to the album until I was 7. I just remember it because it had a cool sleeve you could turn like a playground roundabout. My Mum came home one night after seeing Michael Jackson’s Bad tour and had his 12″ LP and that’s when I really fell in love with music.

CDs came into fashion then and I forgot about vinyl until I was 12 years old, I was big into hip hop and tried to replicate the scratching on my parents hi-fi with my old Bart Simpson ‘Do the Bart Man’ record.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Grace Slick, Manhole

“The horror! The horror!” Mistah Kurtz, Heart of Darkness

Some things just should never have been. Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Foreigner. John and Yoko’s Double Fantasy. And let’s not forget Grace Slick’s 1974 debut solo album, Manhole. From the unfortunate sexual connotations of its title, to its inflated songs odious cover art, Manhole is just that: something you might fall into, and be very frightened until you manage to climb back out. Oh, and it says something, although I don’t know what, that on Manhole’s best cut—and that’s relative—Slick doesn’t even sing.

Don’t get me wrong; Slick sings well, and she’s surrounded herself with everybody who was anybody in San Francisco at that unfortunate juncture in time. Even David Crosby, Grace’s male equivalent, makes a cameo. But you know you’re in trouble when the album’s highlight—or lowlight—is a 15-plus minute opus entitled “Theme From the Movie Manhole,” a movie that never got made and for all I know was a figment of Slick’s acid-fogged imagination.

I’ve never been a big Jefferson Airplane/ Jefferson Starship/ Starship fan, so I’ll admit to having a bias. I like the song “Volunteers” and that’s pretty much it, although I will confess to occasionally listening to Jefferson Starship’s “Miracles” just to guffaw when Marty “I got punched in the nose by a Hell’s Angel” Balin sings, “I had a taste of the real world/ When I went down on you, girl.” But I try to keep an open mind because, well, I’ve seen previous musical prejudices of mine destroyed on multiple occasions, and it’s no fun eating crow.

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The Single Girl: Leon Of Athens, “Global”

Leon of Athens, aka Timoleon Veremis, is an artist with a sound which, quite frankly, is very difficult to disagree with. His recently re-released single “Global” combines a mixture of indie-pop with electro and folk elements to create something bright and euphoric—basically, it’s pretty darn good.

“Global” begins with a lovely jangly guitar intro before bringing in a nice bit of soulful jazz, and then breaking into those lovely indie-electro vibes I mentioned earlier.

His musicianship is oozing with colourful layers, whilst his warm vocal tone also brings in a more sensitive and delicate aspect to his music. An all round winner. Check him out.

“Global” is out now via Mimosa’s Dream Records through Believe Digital. You can follow him on Twitter.

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The Best of Shell Zenner Presents

Greater Manchester’s most in the know radio host Shell Zenner broadcasts the best new music every week on the UK’s Amazing Radio and Bolton FM. You can also catch Shell’s broadcast here now every Wednesday at TVD.

“I’m on air tonight as usual with an unbelievable assortment of new artists and bands. On tonight’s show Panda Bear meets the Grim Reaper! No really—it’s this week’s ROTW by the outstanding electronic master Panda Bear.

This week’s #shellshock is dark and explosive—it’s A Place To Bury Strangers and ‘Straight’” —SZ

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Alan Lomax, Music for Work and Play: Carriacou, Grenada, 1962

We’re in the midst of the Alan Lomax Centennial and the achievement of the indefatigable folklorist radiates life-affirming goodness as strongly as it ever did. Global Jukebox is the digital-only imprint of the Alan Lomax Archive, and on July 7 their latest installment Music for Work and Play: Carriacou, Grenada, 1962 will be available for download. Focusing heavily on a cappella groups and string bands with the added enlightenment of interview segments, it adds impressively to the already vast wealth of Lomax’s research and documentation, the sheer value of which is essentially incalculable.

Alan Lomax was a folklorist, ethnomusicologist, archivist, writer, scholar, activist, and more, but less grandly he remains part of a family tradition spanning three centuries; he’s the son of distinguished folklorist John A. Lomax and father to Anna Lomax Wood, who currently runs the Lomax Archive in addition to heading the Association for Cultural Equity.

Founded by her father, the ACE is a charitable organization housed at New York City’s Hunter College. Its objective is to “explore and preserve the world’s expressive traditions with humanistic commitment and scientific engagement.” By extension the Global Jukebox, which Lomax and a team of developers began in 1989, attempts to “organize and synthesize the findings of anthropology and musicology that evoked relationships between expressive style, human geography, and long-standing patterns of subsistence and social life.”

One of the benefits of digital innovation is how it aids in the dissemination of large stores of historical material while simultaneously helping non-profits keep costs at a minimum. This shouldn’t bum-out fans of physical media (of which I am one) and lovers of vinyl (ditto) for it’s become pretty plain digital itself is not an enemy, though soulless streaming sites might be. And yet as a correspondent for this website I would be remiss in not mentioning Global Jukebox’s teaming with a handful of other organizations to utilize a wide array of formats.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 7/1/15

Q&A: Bob Fuchs, Manager Of The Electric Fetus, How the popular music landmark is tackling changing trends and maintaining relevance in the dawn of digital: “In the last three years, we’ve seen a huge move toward vinyl in the music department…”

86-year old forced to part with lifelong collection of records: “…Having just moved into a rest home, the venerable New Zealander must now find a new home for his beloved record collection because there’s simply no room for it anywhere. For the moment the records are being stored (admittedly quite badly) at the old Timaru Majestic Theatre, free of charge…”

Does The Death Of Album Revenue Spell The End For Rock Stars As We Know Them? “This study dissects data from the top selling tours and albums of the last 34 years to see where the industry is heading. So how can a band not have a top selling album in decades and still blow everyone else away in tour revenue? And can tours really plug the gaping hole in music industry profits left by declining album sales?”

Put Your Fancy Vinyl To Display With Gramovox Floating Record: “…the Floating Record is a one of a kind disc player that lets the users show off their collection and play the sounds effortlessly.”

First vinyl record shop opens in Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar: “One of the world’s most isolated record shops, Dund Gol Records is the brainchild of B. Batbold. It has a stock of over 1,000 vinyl records from Batbold’s own collection…”

The 8 best record cleaning machines for the true vinyl connossieur: “If you love vinyl and you have the cash, the only way to properly clean your records is with a record cleaning machine. Yet the world of the record cleaning machine (RCM) can be a confusing place…”

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TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live Shots: Chris Stapleton and Aubrie Sellers at the Jefferson Theater, 6/20


If you are a fan of country music and you aren’t familiar with Chris Stapleton, there is a void in your life that you may not have even realized was there. The Lexington, Kentucky native has written songs for some of the biggest names in country and beyond including Sheryl Crow and Adele. Having previously fronted the Grammy-nominated bluegrass band The SteelDrivers, Stapleton has broken out on his own and is making huge waves with his debut solo album, Traveller. In the midst of a string of sold-out dates, I was a traveller myself, venturing from DC, down to the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday to see him first-hand.

This is not your typical FM-country radio or CMT Awards fare. You won’t find songs of cold beer and hot women, and driving through the mud to get to the lake party or other standard bro-country themes. Stapleton is honest, real, and pure, and there is no pretension to what he does. It may have been a hot, rainy night in Charlottesville, but the warm glow of good music inside the venue made everything all right.


The venue packed quickly, fans lining both floors of the theater seeking out a vantage point. The crowd was buzzing by the time Aubrie Sellers took the stage to open the show. Having paid her dues as a country music background singer, Aubrie seems poised to break out on her own in a big way. The daughter of country stars Lee Ann Womack and Jason Sellers, the twenty-four-year-old Sellers won over the audience in no time flat. Her commanding voice was damn near a dead ringer for her mother’s, with an extra tablespoon of attitude thrown into the mix.

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