Author Archives: Joseph Neff

Graded on a Curve:
Great Lakes,
Wild Vision

Having emerged in Athens, GA roughly two decades ago, Great Lakes’ formative period was the byproduct of three individuals and a load of Southeastern psych-pop support. However, since 2008 the outfit’s increasingly mature country and folk inflected shots have been called from the home base of Brooklyn by founding singer-songwriter-guitarist Ben Crum. Now after a gap of five years Great Lakes are back with Wild Vision; it’s out January 22 on the band’s own Loose Trucks label.

Formed in 1996 when the songwriting tandem of Ben Crum and Dan Donahue hooked up with James Huggins, Great Lakes was initially part of the labyrinthine circuitry comprising the Elephant 6 Collective, mainly through a live lineup featuring many of the scene’s participants including utility bass player Derek Almstead and members of Elf Power, Of Montreal (indeed Kevin Barnes), Essex Green, Ladybug Transistor, and Neutral Milk Hotel.

Furthermore, their second and fourth albums were released on the Elephant 6-associated Orange Twin label as The Apples in Stereo’s honcho Robert Schneider mixed their self-titled 2000 debut for Kindercore. It was an effort defined by sunny neo ‘60s psych-pop, flashes of bold guitar, and occasional distinguishing wrinkles like the AOR-ish keyboard of “Become the Ship.”

While a pleasant affair, Great Lakes is largely of interest to fans of the more forthrightly psych-pop, twee-leaning chapters of the Elephant 6 saga. The record’s 2002 follow-up The Distance Between traveled a similar path, a nifty cover of The Zombies’ “This Will Be Our Year” amongst its selections, but it also stretched out a bit, particularly on the lengthy rocking closer “Conquistadors.”

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
7 Year Bitch,
Live at Moe

Erupting in the ‘90s as part of the decade’s punk-grunge-indie rock explosion, 7 Year Bitch frequently get gender lumped with Babes in Toyland, L7, fellow Seattleite’s Dickless, and pre-stardom Hole. This isn’t necessarily unfair but does shortchange a group that overcame numerous obstacles to hit a studio peak with ‘94’s ¡Viva Zapata! Documenting a 1996 hometown show near the end of their run, Live at Moe finds them in energetic form. Does it rate as a mandatory purchase? Well, no. Is it a worthy taste of one loud night in a crowded room? Why yes it is, and it’s out January 15 on 180gm red and black split vinyl in a limited edition of 500. CD and digital options are also available.

One of 7 Year Bitch’s earliest compilation appearances (with many more to follow) was “8-Ball Deluxe” on the 1992 Kill Rock Stars CD; the collection found the band then composed of guitarist Stefanie Sargent, bassist Elizabeth Davis-Simpson, drummer Valerie Agnew, and vocalist Selene Vigil-Wilk in the company of Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, and Bikini Kill.

Thus it remains fairly easy to connect them with the phenomenon known as Riot Grrl; another early comp track “Dead Men Don’t Rape” notwithstanding, doing so ultimately proves a bit reductive. They’ve also been regularly classified as punk rock; the cover of Thatcher on Acid’s “Can We Laugh Now?” aside, this is something of an oversimplification as well.

Instead, they filtered their thoroughly non-gimmicky gender makeup and punkish facets (a desire to cohesively barrel forward, a lack of solos) through raw thudding density, with the whole comparing pretty well to the heaviness of their Kill Rock Stars associates the Melvins and Nirvana, though to portray 7 Year Bitch as a grunge act is surely a mistake.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: Noveller, Glacial Glow, and No Dreams

Roughly a year ago Sarah Lipstate, a versatile Brooklyn-based guitarist who records solo as Noveller, made substantial headway with the release of Fantastic Planet, her seventh album and first for Fire Records. Her new label has chosen to begin 2016 with a bang by reissuing a pair of key Noveller LPs to a wider audience; 2011’s Glacial Glow and 2013’s No Dreams provide valuable insight into the growth of Lipstate’s experimental prowess, and both are obtainable on vinyl, CD, and digital January 8.

Sarah Lipstate has chalked up extensive credits as a band member (One Umbrella, Parts & Labor, and briefly in Wesley Eisold’s Cold Cave venture) and in collaboration (Carla Bozulich of Geraldine Fibbers, David Wm. Sims of Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid, Canada’s thisquietarmy, Glen Kotche of Wilco, and the guitar ensembles of Ben Frost, Rhys Chatham, and Glen Branca), but her most enduring project has been Noveller; now over a decade old, in addition to a copious stream of full-lengths (two splits and a collab raise the total to ten) there are a handful of CDRs, cassettes, and even a 7-inch.

A whole heap of this output is available digitally via Bandcamp, but Fire’s reissue of Glacial Glow and No Dreams affords those only recently introduced to Lipstate the opportunity to procure vinyl editions of Fantastic Planet’s direct antecedents; Glacial Glow was previously given a 500 copy pressing by Weird Forest and No Dreams a multi-colored run of 400 through Taiga (the CD was issued on Important).

The two records essay significant developments in her journey into sound-sculpture sans vocals, so their reemergence as physical product is warranted, especially as each wields distinctive moments. Indeed, Glacial Glow wastes no time in underscoring Lipstate’s instrumental abilities as the tidy opener “Entering” combines tuneful fingerpicking, bass-like bottom and edgy ambiance hanging on the precipice of shrill as it ripples and swirls to conclusion.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Speed the Plough,
Now

Having emerged from the fertile ‘80s Hoboken scene, Speed the Plough thrived into the next decade and after a long hiatus returned to activity in 2010. Over the years they’ve amassed a catalog intermingling guitar pop with shades of indie rock and helpings of effervescent electric folk; their new album finds them back on Steve Fallon’s rekindled Coyote imprint and proves a welcome addition to a worthwhile discography. Pressing plant delays have pushed back the availability of Now on vinyl, but it’s slated for release this month.

Succinctly, when guitarists Glenn Mercer and Bill Million left The Trypes to reactivate The Feelies with drummer Stanley Demeski and bassist Brenda Sauter in tow, the remaining members, namely keyboardist-vocalist John Baumgartner, guitarist Marc Francia, and multi-instrumentalist-vocalist Toni Paruta, located bassist Pete Pedulla and drummer Jim DeRogatis and shed their former moniker to become Speed the Plough.

They debuted with a 10-song self-titled platter in 1988 on Coyote, an important ‘80s independent (highlights include The Feelies’ The Good Earth, the first three Yo La Tengo LPs, and the Luxury Condos Coming to Your Neighborhood Soon compilation) having recommenced operations for the occasion of Speed the Plough’s latest.

Of course, the story is a bit more complicated; for ‘91’s sophomore outing Wonder Wheel (the first of three discs on East Side Digital, the company also issuing a remixed Speed the Plough in ‘92) Paruta was credited as Toni Baumgartner while Demeski and Sauter comprised the rhythm section in place of the departing Pedulla and DeRogatis (the latter is now a well-known music critic and radio host).

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: The 3.5.7 Ensemble, Amongst the Smokestacks and Steeples

The jazz history of Chicago is vast; a full understanding requires a long shelf of books, some still to be written, and a glorious library of recordings, an unspecified number as yet unperformed. A recent development in the narrative of Chi-Town jazz is The 3.5.7 Ensemble, a size-shifting unit employing composition as a launching pad for expressiveness rooted in swinging Modernity and loaded with ecstatic but precise flights of freedom. Their latest is the often terrific Amongst the Smokestacks and Steeples; it’s available now on 2LP, CD, and digital through their Milk Factory Productions label.

If there is a municipality currently kicking aside the spurious notion of jazz as a moribund entity it’s the Windy City. Naturally a massive amount of improvising is taking place in NYC as other locales remain sturdy outposts hosting pockets of jazz-inclined players with much to say, but Chicago, having fostered studies in sublime collectivity reaching back to transplanted New Orleanians King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, and Louis Armstrong, continues to shine bright via long-nurtured avenues of cooperation, support, and constructive discourse.

It’s also the hometown of pianist Andrew Hill, the site of Herman Blount’s exquisite transformation into Sun Ra, and the home of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, a significant percentage of jazz’s worthy motion having sprung from the AACM’s cradle including the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the less celebrated but indispensable group Air, and the voluminous and priceless discography of instrumentalist-composer Anthony Braxton.

Furthermore, a fair amount of Chicago’s ensuing jazz progressions were mentored or sponsored by AACM alumni. Such is the case with The 3.5.7 Ensemble, as the fledgling outfit was given a monthly gig at the Velvet Lounge, the club of the late and very great tenor man Fred Anderson. But while steeped in Chi-jazz essence the majority of the 3.5.7’s members immigrated from someplace else.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

TVD’s The Best of 2015: New Releases, Part Two

‘Tis the season to peruse a bevy of numbered rundowns as websites undergo deserved holiday breaks. As it was with previous TVD Best of lists, the releases below aren’t an all-encompassing pronouncement from an overstuffed armchair on high; instead they are merely a hierarchy of loosely paired favorites assembled and presented with cheer as the calendar swiftly runs out of days.

5. This Record Belongs to __________ | Best of lists (those not compiled by committee, anyway) are fittingly self-centered affairs, but here’s an entry pertaining to a better future. In his recent book of music-related stories and enthusiasms The Record Store of the Mind, Josh Rosenthal makes the following powerful observation: “You realize a certain portion of your used LP collection belonged to dead people with similar tastes as you. And all your records will someday belong to someone else.”

After biting the proverbial dust our platters need to go somewhere, and Third Man and Light in the Attic’s kid-appropriate record player and accompanying album are a significant step in insuring our LPs and 45s don’t end up at the Salvation Army or worse, in the landfill. Opening with Shel Silverstein and closing with Kermit the Frog, the disc features Carole King, Nilsson, Woody Guthrie, and a swell stretch of Ella Jenkins, Nina Simone, Vashti Bunyan, and Donovan; the twin grooves of The Pointer Sisters’ “Pinball Number Count” and Van Dyke Parks’ “Occapella” should go a long way toward nurturing taste.

4. Oneohtrix Point Never, Garden of Delete | Having previously only dabbled in Daniel Lopatin’s work, I wasn’t adequately prepared for the rigorous experimentation shaping Garden of Delete. Sonic contemporaneousness gets diced, stretched, layered and twisted into a warped environment that can be enjoyed without irony by lobes lacking a substantial relationship to currently popular pop and zeitgeist electronica.

What Lopatin is up to doesn’t really seem too far afield from the work of John Oswald (he of Plunderphonics and Plexure fame); both have specialized in extensively manipulating aural textures while retaining fluctuating levels or recognizable ambiance, though Oneohtrix Point Never’s stuff, at least here, isn’t sample-based and therefore inspires a less specific sense of familiarity. Ultimately, Garden of Delete is chopped and bent surrealism of a fine stripe.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

TVD’s The Best of 2015: New Releases, Part One

‘Tis the season to peruse a bevy of numbered rundowns as websites undergo deserved holiday breaks. As it was with previous TVD Best of lists, the releases below aren’t an all-encompassing pronouncement from an overstuffed armchair on high; instead they are merely a hierarchy of loosely paired favorites assembled and presented with cheer as the calendar swiftly runs out of days.

10. Barrence Whitfield and the Savages, Under the Savage Sky | As long as Barrence and crew keep throwing down hearty slabs of stomping post-Sonics garage R&B mania like this one and ‘13’s Dig Thy Savage Soul, I’ll keep putting them on my Year end Best lists. Having bupkis to do with originality, this stuff is totally wrapped up in inspiration and proper execution, particularly with concern for volume and distortion.

Therefore some will balk at its gnarled guitar, wailing sax, pounding rhythm, and raw throat usurping the inclusion of a more innovative or contemporary release. But on the other hand, the fact that Barrence’s last two records are his strongest is its own kind of startling reality. It all wraps up with a swell piece of songwriting in “Full Moon in the Daylight Sky,” lending further testimony that Under the Savage Sky is the latest in a far from ordinary creative rekindling.

9. Beauty Pill, Describes Things as They Are | Another comeback, though the circumstances here are quite different, relating to the health issues of group leader Chad Clark. Concisely depicted as experimentally inclined pop, this LP is a significant progression from Beauty Pill’s prior output for Dischord (Butterscotch is the new label); in large part through the sound of Clark’s voice, affinities do remain.

Describes Things as They Are is a multifaceted art-pop grower illuminating Clark’s control of studio-as-instrument alongside his good taste in cover material, specifically Arto Lindsay’s “The Prize” and Lungfish’s “Ann the Word.” But the original writing stacks up very nicely as the organic elements are well-balanced with the synthetic techniques throughout.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

TVD’s The Best of 2015: The Box Sets

‘Tis the season to peruse a bevy of numbered rundowns as websites undergo deserved holiday breaks. As it was with previous TVD Best of lists, the releases below aren’t an all-encompassing pronouncement from an overstuffed armchair on high; instead they are merely a hierarchy of loosely paired favorites assembled and presented with cheer as the calendar swiftly runs out of days.

10. Men & Volts, Honeymoon Luggage | Of all the inexplicably unsung bands, Boston’s Men & Volts are amongst the hardest to figure out, at least until one really sits and absorbs what they were up to. Formed in 1979 and often likened to Little Feat, the group was clearly too much of a straight rock extension to connect with the punk-era hoards as their initial devotion to playing the music of Captain Beefheart underscores a left-of-center sensibility that no doubt scuttled them away from the shelves of more straight-laced roots-rock heads.

Also bringing NRBQ to mind, fans of that unit (and yes Lowell George and Don Van Vliet) looking for fresh kicks are in for a treat. Honeymoon Luggage consists of a remastering of Men & Volts’ ’84 LP Tramps in Bloom, the unreleased Boomtown alb and two more platters of previously unheard studio tunes; across eight sides the non-retread atmosphere is thick and the highlights are many.

9. Close Lobsters, Firestation Towers 1986-1989 | Cherry Red’s expanded C86 set was one of the highlights of 2014. Fire Records intensified the indie pop microscope this year with a harnessing of this presently existing Scottish outfit’s Foxheads Stalk This Land and Headache Rhetoric LPs and the singles collection Forever Until Victory!

Some of the Lobsters’ cohorts frankly lost the thread as they searched for or attempted to maintain fleeting success, but that’s not the case here, Firestation Towers maintaining the focus on chiming guitars, non-hackneyed melodicism, and energetic delivery and lacking any sense of anticlimax. Sure, the early singles might jangle forth with a little extra urgency, but that’s far from an uncommon occurrence.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

TVD’s The Best of 2015: The Reissues, Part Two

‘Tis the season to peruse a bevy of numbered rundowns as websites undergo deserved holiday breaks. As it was with previous TVD Best of lists, the releases below aren’t an all-encompassing pronouncement from an overstuffed armchair on high; instead they are merely a hierarchy of loosely paired favorites assembled and presented with cheer as the calendar swiftly runs out of days.

5. A Tribe Called Quest, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm and KMD, Black Bastards | A Tribe Called Quest’s debut has never been MIA; really, the main attraction for the 25th Anniversary Edition is a well-deserved remastering that infuses the set with a sonic vibrancy the initial CD version definitely lacked.

One of rap’s canonical albums, People’s brandishes an impressive duality, serving as a magnificent capper to the quick fire evolution of the ‘80s as it assisted in igniting the form’s ‘90s renaissance. A quarter century later People’s isn’t the slightest bit antiquated; instead, it remains a qualitative beacon for the style it helped to establish.

Based out of Long Beach, NY and featuring Zev Love X, a rapper soon to be known as MF DOOM, KMD (Kausing Much Damage) was a part of hip-hop’s ‘90s flourishing. In ’94 the release of KMD’s highpoint was quashed by Elektra due to inflammatory title and cover art; in turn it became a rarity with a steadily increasing legend.

Black Bastards’ reemergence through DOOM’s Metalface imprint pairs the original album with a second CD of remixes, alternate versions and instrumentals plus a vinyl picture disc of “What a Nigga Know?”; the music is exquisitely packaged in pop-up book design expanding upon the original art, and the cumulative effect not only backs up frequent assertions that the ‘90s were hip-hop’s greatest decade, but in a year where demonization of the other has become almost commonplace, it’s difficult to locate a more timely reissue.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

TVD’s The Best of 2015: The Reissues, Part One

‘Tis the season to peruse a bevy of numbered rundowns as websites undergo deserved holiday breaks. As it was with previous TVD Best of lists, the releases below aren’t an all-encompassing pronouncement from an overstuffed armchair on high; instead they are merely a hierarchy of loosely paired favorites assembled and presented with cheer as the calendar swiftly runs out of days.

10. Youth Brigade “Complete First Demo” and Bells Of “00/85” | Spawned from the breakup of Teen Idles and the Untouchables, Youth Brigade (Nathan Strejcek- vocals, Tom Clinton- guitar, Bert Queiroz- bass, Danny Ingram- drums) are maybe the most underrated of the breakout Dischord bands of 1981. Expanding upon their entries for the foundational hardcore compilation Flex Your Head, this EP, recorded by Don Zientara and Skip Groff at Inner Ear Studios, makes a strong case for their musicianship in a style that was rapidly debased with regurgitations of formula.

Taken alone, “Complete First Demo” may seem a bit slight for a year-end best list, but as the name Youth Brigade underlines, the hardcore experience was never really about being considered by one’s self. These eight tracks total less than nine minutes and combine exceptionally well with archival material from State of Alert, Government Issue, and of course Minor Threat to reinforce DC’s centrality to the whole hardcore shebang.

By 1985 HC was mostly kaput. DC’s Revolution Summer was an exercise in creative rebirth, leaving behind close-mindedness and violence for liberating energy. Rites of Spring, Gray Matter, Beefeater, and Embrace were the main participants in a tight-knit uprising; “00/85” clarifies that others were taking part.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text