In rotation: 12/11/20

Miami, FL | Found Sound Records Is North Miami’s New Mecca for Vinyl Junkies: If you were going to pick any year to be operating a new brick-and-mortar retail store, 2020 probably wouldn’t be it. But Rafael “Ralph” Pichardo finds his shop, Found Sound Records, thriving since it opened almost exactly one year ago. “Records are a niche,” he explains from behind the counter of his North Miami store. “I’m sure a lot of people have struggled, but I haven’t. People are spending so much time at home; they’re buying more music. What else is there for people to do?” Found Sound, this year’s Best of Miami pick for Best Record Store, is located in an anonymous strip mall on Northeast 123rd Street, among an antique shop and an accountant’s office. It is a well-organized mecca of close to 8,000 vinyl records. The walls are lined with the more expensive selections, including a rare pressing of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot priced at a hundred bucks. The records in top condition are at hand-level bins in alphabetical order, arranged by genres.

Dayton, OH | Dayton’s Not Dead: Blind Rage Records: Blind Rage Records opened in the music-driven city of Dayton during the coronavirus pandemic. They sell vinyl records from punk and hardcore artists from their location on Watervliet Ave. Musician and Blind Rage Records owner James Downing-Groth named the store after his independent record label of the same name. The Blind Rage moniker was earned through one of the owners’ projects. Downing-Groth came up with the idea for the store about three weeks before its opening because of an overabundance of the label’s records sitting in his house. “I’ve sold at record fairs for the past fifteen or so years, and I was already sitting on boxes and boxes of records for that, so we had an easy start,” said Downing-Groth. He did not inform anyone about the store’s opening until the week before. Blind Rage Records is unique for an opening during the pandemic, a crisis that has caused many small businesses to struggle. However, that situation did not affect the record store’s early days negatively.

St. Louis, MO | Dead Wax Records makes a move and spins off a sister store: The popularity of vinyl, now officially outselling CDs, is spilling over bigtime at Dead Wax Records. The shop, which opened in 2013 at 1959 Cherokee Street, recently doubled its size with a move across the street to 1912 Cherokee. And Dead Wax is spinning off a sister store, Weirdo Records, scheduled to open Dec. 18 at 6015 Gravois Avenue. Jeremy Miller, who owns Dead Wax Records and Weirdo Records with Jake Kamp, says he sometimes can’t believe their vinyl endeavors have gone this far. “We’re going on eight years,” he says. “I had no idea it would be an eight-year venture, that it would be this sustainable. People have been buying everything. It’s across the board.” He points to the popularity of vinyl albums such as Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours.” “I can’t keep it in stock,” he says. When it comes to vinyl, Miller says, “people are buying it half my age; people are buying it twice my age. It really has staying power.” He says the move came at the right time.

Milwaukee, WI | Autographed copies of Shawn Mendes’ ‘Wonder’ album are showing up at record stores, including in Wisconsin: It looks like Shawn Mendes has something extra wonderful planned for super fans, and for independent record stores across the United States. Mendes released his fourth album “Wonder” on Friday, but on Wednesday, copies of the album, with Mendes’ autograph on the booklet, appear to be showing up at record stores with little advance warning. At noon Wednesday, The Exclusive Company chain in Wisconsin posted that it had limited quantities of the autographed CDs for sale at all seven of its stores. At about the same time, The Record Exchange, a store in Boise, Idaho, tweeted about having copies of autographed “Wonder” CDs. Another fan Wednesday afternoon shared a pic of an autographed CD on Twitter she said she picked up at St. Paul, Minn. Mendes posted on Facebook Tuesday that he signed a bunch of “Wonder” CDs that would be shipped to independent record stores. He appears to be working with Record Store Day on the promotion, which has a web page where people can look for copies at nearby retailers.

The legacy of 12 cassette tapes for a penny? Generation X’s stuffed garages: Dear mail-order music and movie clubs, The last time you heard from me was in 1999. I wrote you all a letter, asking you to remove my husband and me from your mailing lists, ending the off-and-on relationships we’d had with you since we were 18. I want you to know, I no longer think of you as monsters. It wasn’t your fault that my generation grew up without streaming services like Netflix and Spotify. In our day, instant access to the movies and music we loved required ownership. And you made that ownership possible for teenagers with a part-time job and impulse control issues. You made us feel rich, sending us 12 cassettes of our choice for a penny and the promise to buy four additional titles “of our choice” at full price. You made us feel special, sending us all those packages in the mail, even the ones we didn’t order due to our inability to check boxes in a timely manner. You helped us grow up. I learned instant gratification had a price. And I’m still terrified about checking boxes in a timely manner. Thank you.

Saving The Music: Producer Cheryl Pawelski Preserves Historical Recordings: Cheryl Pawelski says she born “hardwired” to love music because of the musicians in her family, including her father and grandmother. Growing up in Milwaukee near 68th Street and Oklahoma Avenue, she found an even deeper connection to music – especially through collecting records, purchasing her first two 45s on a trip to Gimbels Department Store with her grandmother. By the time she was a teenager, the vinyl records began piling up in her room. Pawelski also began to see a city and its many ethnicities embrace the art form enthusiastically as fans and musicians. As she got older, Pawelski became friends with Milwaukee musicians — like John Kuth, Mrs. Fun and Paul Cebar — and attended shows frequently. “Until COVID kneecapped everything, there was an excuse to dance and play music and drink beer probably every night of the year in Milwaukee,” Pawelski said. “But for me personally, I was obsessed early on with records, the actual physical things and how they were made.”

Why The Avalanches ditched their record collection: When The Avalanches finished their last album in 2016, founding member Robbie Chater gave away almost every record he owned. Built up over decades, the collection contained about 7,000 records – many of which had been excavated, recycled and re-contextualised on the band’s sampladelic debut Since I Left You and follow-up Wildflower. Despite the obvious sentimental value, Chater decided he needed “a fresh start”, and divided the records equally between a charity shop and his Melbourne shop Licorice Pie Records. “It was time to let stuff go and to allow new music to come in,” he says. “It was really liberating, actually. Scary but great.” The only records Chater refused to part with were the ones his father had left him when he died – a small collection of folk music has that ended up being plundered on The Avalanches’ new album We Will Always Love You.

‘I’m a song catcher’: 60 years of Arhoolie Records, the label for a lost America: Now 89, one-time refugee Chris Strachwitz presides over one of the greatest US labels, having removed the stigma from working-class music like blues and zydeco to give a voice to the ignored. This year, 3 November saw two momentous events take place in the US: American voters chose Joe Biden for president and Arhoolie Records turned 60. I put this conjunction to Arhoolie’s founder, Chris Strachwitz, who laughs. “Well, that may have been the day of the invoice from the pressing plant when they shipped the first albums,” he says, underplaying quite how seminal the release of Mance Lipscomb’s 1960 LP Texas Sharecropper and Songster would prove to be. He pressed only 500 copies of Lipscomb’s album to begin with, but one of America’s greatest record labels has grown from those humble beginnings.

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