In rotation: 12/18/20

Austin, TX | Austin brothers amp up local music scene with new stereo and record shop: This may sound like a broken record: 2020 sucks. But two Austin entrepreneurs are trying to change that tune with a meticulously curated lifestyle record store in South Austin that is likely to strike a chord with music lovers. Located at 4361 S. Congress Ave., Living in Stereo is more like a hip, cozy lounge than a retail outlet, evoking a midcentury modern design aesthetic and a vintage Austin vibe. It’s the brainchild of brothers Robert and Enzo Johnson, who were laid off early in the pandemic but chose to invest their savings to open their dream shop. The emporium showcases high-end stereo systems, both new and refurbished, as well as collectable guitars, home décor, custom neon signs, and vinyl records, and the space includes an onsite coffee bar featuring locally roasted beans from El Tigre Coffee. From the design elements to the eclectic offerings, each characteristic of Living in Stereo was chosen with intention, with the Johnson brothers aiming to capture the cultural significance and character of Austin’s halcyon days.

San Francisco, CA | San Francisco’s Best Local Retail Store of 2020: Amoeba Music: Amoeba is open for business, but the best is yet to come: Local retail businesses have never faced as big of a challenge as 2020 has presented them. And while some haven’t been able to survive, others have found ways to adapt with online sales. The one that The Bold Italic readers chose as the Best Local Retail Store is iconic Amoeba Music. Founded in Berkeley in 1990, Amoeba survived decades of turmoil from the music industry to become a renowned location for musicians, music lovers, and tourists to the Bay Area. As we’ve transitioned from one method of enjoying music to the other with breakneck speed, you’d think that crate-digging would have been engulfed by the annals of history, rendered obsolete. It hasn’t. For some of us, there’s nothing more soothing than rifling through a box of buried treasure we can listen to. Amoeba in San Francisco mirrors the bespoke experience of finding your favorite song on vinyl. Since retail has been allowed back open, business has kept up—the store also has an online collection available to peruse.

Godfrey, IL | River Bend Records Now Open In Godfrey, Has Huge Collection Of Old School Vinyl Records, Hopes To Expand In Future: The past decade has seen a resurgence in vinyl records, as many current artists have put their most recent releases on vinyl, along with compact discs, and more recently digital downloads on streaming services such as Pandora, Spotify, and other services. At the newly-opened River Bend Records in Godfrey, the vast majority of music is offered on vinyl, as the store has a vast collection of music from all genres from the 50s through today. The new store has gotten off to a great start among music collectors around the area. “Things have been going really well,” said Billy Hurst, who co-owns the store along with his wife, Tara. “Really, really busy, You know, we’ve been here about six weeks, and the response from the general public has been just amazing. So supportive.” The fact that vinyl records are making a comeback is something the Hurst feels has been coming for some time. “It’s been probably about 10 years in the making,” Hurst said, “a second wave or resurgence of sorts. In the last two years, vinyl’s outsold CDs. So yeah, very, very cool.”

Columbus, OH | The ’13th best record store in Columbus’ celebrates 10 years in business: Even amid a pandemic, Elizabeth’s Records co-owner David Lewis has held tight to a community grown steadily over the last decade. The three years that David Lewis worked at Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas, the shop was consistently voted the top record store in the area by various publications. “It was always like, ‘We’re number one!’ And we had shirts that said, ‘Number one record store in Austin!’” said Lewis, who co-owns Elizabeth’s Records in Clintonville with wife Laura. “And I hated that. I didn’t want to be that at all [when we opened]. I’m always the underdog.” Lewis embraced that beloved misfit role when Elizabeth’s opened in November 2010, joking at the time that it was the 42nd best record store in town. “And we’ve worked our way up to 13th,” Lewis deadpanned during a recent interview in the shop, which is currently open to the public Friday through Sunday, its hours curtailed by the ongoing pandemic. “And I’m happy with that. That’s a comfortable place. It’s close enough to the top for me. I can deal with that.”

London, UK | Banquet Records temporarily pause sales to Ireland and mainland Europe due to Brexit uncertainty: “Thanks in advance for your patience while we work to find a solution to the difficult, avoidable position we’re in.” Banquet Records have announced that they are temporarily pausing sales to Ireland and mainland Europe due to the persistent uncertainty surrounding Brexit trading arrangements. Negotiations between the UK and the European Union (EU) are still ongoing over a crucial trade deal, with just two weeks left before the Brexit transition period ends on January 1, 2021. With the prospect of a No Deal Brexit still a distinct possibility, the prevailing sense of uncertainty over the future of UK and EU relations is already having a knock-on effect across the UK music industry. Warnings about the potentially “catastrophic” impact of a No Deal Brexit have been sounded recently as that outcome would, for example, very likely prevent thousands of British musicians from being able to afford to tour Europe next year.

The Best Music Books of 2020: In a year filled with things we didn’t want to think about, there were few more indulgent escapes than music books. Thanks to everyone who took the trouble to write and publish them, in a year when record and book stores were closed and, worst of all, music fans were deprived of concerts and will be for at least several months to come — a feeling that, as one friend described it today, “is like being deprived of an essential nutrient.” But like live albums and livestreams, books brought us at least a little closer to the sensations we miss so much. Every “best of” list is incomplete and it would be impossible to cover every worthy book, especially when some of them so with apologies to the ones we didn’t get to — particularly Rob Halford and Dave Mustaine, whose omission here is not a metal snub! — in no particular order, here are The Best Music Books of 2020 That We Managed to Procure and Actually Finish Reading

This new ultrasonic record cleaner cleans and dries your vinyl with soundwaves: Spotless records. Chinese company Happywell is releasing a new ultrasonic record cleaner, called HumminGuru. Ultrasonic cleaning uses soundwaves to “create cavitation bubbles in a liquid bath of water that requires zero contact with the record during the cleaning process,” explains the company. The HumminGuru has been designed with simplicity of use, with quick clean, and deep clean options, as well as a five minute drying cycle that utilises its two fans. As well as being easy to use, it has also been designed to be lightweight – weighing 3kg, and compact – measuring 13.5” x 6” x 11”. Retailing at £260, HumminGuru aims to create “a new standard of affordable luxury (cleaning) that every vinyl record enthusiast can enjoy.”

David Bowie’s covers of John Lennon and Bob Dylan classics to be released on vinyl: The special 7″ will arrive on what would have been Bowie’s 74th birthday. David Bowie‘s covers of John Lennon‘s ‘Mother’ and Bob Dylan‘s ‘Tryin’ To Get To Heaven’ will be released as a special 7” single to mark the late icon’s birthday. Bowie, who died in January 2016, would have turned 74 years old on January 8, 2021. To mark the occasion, two previously unreleased versions of the aforementioned Lennon and Dylan classics will arrive on vinyl on that date – five years on from the musician’s death. A cream record (exclusive to Bowie’s official store and Dig!) will be limited to just 1000 copies, with the remaining 7,147 numbered vinyl being black. Fans will also be able to listen to the tracks via streaming services. Bowie’s rendition of ‘Mother’ was recorded by Tony Visconti in 1998 for a Lennon tribute album that never materialised, while his take on ‘Tryin’ To Get To Heaven’ came that same year during the ‘’ mixing sessions. Both covers feature Bowie’s longtime guitarist and collaborator Reeves Gabrels…

Missoula, MT | Musician’s friends bring songs to life on birthday vinyl: Missoula indie rock musician and freelance illustrator Dave Johnson always wanted to hear his music played on vinyl. For his 40th birthday this year, his sister and other local artists made that happen. “To call it a present seems inadequate,” Johnson said, “For me that was a life event.” The album, titled “Brij Make Cover” by Bridgebuilder — a band Johnson started in his teens — is a nine-track compilation featuring Johnson’s indie rock songs spanning two decades and re-created by his friends. The cover art used was also created by Johnson years ago. Johnson didn’t think that his birthday was going to be much in 2020. He had a Zoom call scheduled with friends and family, and figured that it would amount to virtual beers and laughs. “I had no idea that there was gonna be anything more to the Zoom call than spending time with friends,” he said. Something dawned on him when around 25 people joined the call to watch him open his presents. He opened a calendar shaped present and said that he was surprised to see his own artwork as an LP record jacket. Inside was the actual vinyl record.

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