Author Archives: Robert Ham

My First Record with Rachel Taylor Brown

Rachel Taylor Brown is possessed of one of the best singing voices on the planet, one that is capable of cooing calm and expressive fire in the course of one four-minute song. Brown uses it on her equally fiery and cooling songs that beautifully meld together influences from literature and modern pop culture, as on her 2009 album Susan Storm’s Ugly Sister and Other Saints and Superheroes, which spun fascinating and occasionally sordid tales about your favorite comic book characters. She’s currently wrapping up the recording of her next album, but was able to take some time away from the studio and the stage to write up a My First Record Post for TVD:PDX.

I’m the sixth of seven kids–four boys, three girls. Thanks to my music-crazed siblings (all four brothers had bands) I was exposed to loads of music. They had great taste.

I, on the other hand, have to admit my first album may have been The Fifth Dimension. In my defense, 1) there were Raggedy Ann dolls on the cover, and I really loved Raggedy Ann, though I always forgot her out in the yard and the dog chewed her up and the second time I did that my mom refused to ever get me another one and glued Raggedy’s drooly pathetic chewed yarn hair back on her head and that was the end of that. And, 2) I had the good taste at least to like the Laura Nyro song best (“Wedding Bell Blues,” pat pat of self-congratulation). It was either that, or The Carpenters’ “Close to You.” I was small enough that it was very frustrating that I couldn’t sing as low as magical Karen Carpenter, no matter how I strained. “Crescent Noon” put me in a trance. Still does.

I have my parents to thank for my everlasting love of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (danced to a lot, by me, in the living room). And Tom Jones: Live in Las Vegas. “I’ve been in Vegas three days….That’s right–THREE days….and, ALREADY…… I NEED A WOOOOOOOOOMAN!” He burns it up.
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Pancakes And Pop Served Up For A Good Cause

The New York-based artist Dara Greenwald has some sturdy NW roots, having brought her stirringly political and personal work to Portland in February 2010 when she helped co-curate an exhibit at PNCA entitled Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures 1960s to Now. Soon after that, Greenwald was diagnosed with cancer, which she is in the midst of treatment for as you read this. While she does have some healthy insurance, it’s hardly enough to cover the expenses she has incurred as a result of this diagnosis. So, her fellow arts community is raising up arms to help raise money to help stave off the piling up bills.

The first such event here in Portland is taking place on Sunday May 22nd at the art center Disjecta on 8731 N Interstate. For a sliding scale fee ($8 – $100), you can partake in a pancake breakfast and special performances by Stephen Malkmus and Rebecca Gates. The whole thing is going down from 11am until around 2pm with the music starting at noon. Screw this lazy Sunday nonsense, get up and get out for a good cause.

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My First Record with Jib Kidder

Sean Schuster-Craig is a visual and sound artist who, when recording under the name Jib Kidder creates infectious little nibbles of songs using turntables and samples. Listening to his latest work, Music For Hypnotized Minds released on Sufjan Stevens’ Asthmatic Kitty label as part of their experimental Library Catalog Series, feels like an extension of the cut and paste fun that the Art of Noise used to have in their earliest days.

There are beats, for sure, but they are slippery, a little wobbly, and often disappear just when you’re getting the hang of them. And when he matches these sounds up with visuals, the result is, well, hypnotic.

My first memory of being immersed in sound (perhaps my oldest memory of all, even) is, like all memories, really a memory of a memory of a memory of a memory and in this case, in all likelihood, a memory of a memory of a memory of a memory of a dream. I’m in my front yard. So is my refrigerator, which is open. Standard sorts of fruit (apples, bananas, oranges) are flying out its opened door in slow, floating motion. Mummies walk like zombies to the pace of my beating heart, the sound of which is being broadcast at high volume throughout the neighborhood. I used to recall this event every time I would get an ear infection, in which case I would be immersed, once again and without choice, in the music of my beating heart.

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My First Record with Dave Depper

Our second My First Record post today comes from the ridiculously prolific and talented Dave Depper. Tomorrow night, he stops by the Doug Fir Lounge to celebrate the release of his first solo LP, The Ram Project (out on Jackpot Records), wherein the multi-instrumentalist performs all the songs from Paul McCartney’s RAM album.

He will be performing the album live on Saturday night with an all-star band of collaborators, including members of Musee Mecanique.

Let’s get this out of the way: Remain in Light was not my first record, nor was it the first record that made an impression upon me. I was raised in a militantly pro-Beatles household. My parents had a CD player pretty early on in the game, and the then-novel first edition CD issues of all of the Beatles’ albums were on pretty constant rotation during my early listening years.

This meant that pretty much everything I listened to in those times was basically graded on a criteria related to how closely it resembled the Fab Four. Music like the Beach Boys and the Byrds rated favorably; Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell decidedly less so.

This was a comfortable enough existence for a time, but things completely changed when I was eight or nine years old and my uncle gave me a dubbed C90 cassette with Talking Heads’ Remain in Light on one side and Speaking in Tongues on the other.

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My First Record with Stephanie Schneiderman

Today on The Vinyl District Portland we are going to give you two additional entries into the My First Record pantheon. Why? Because each of the artists that wrote them are going to be spending this weekend celebrating the release of their new albums and they are deserving of all the praise and support as we can give them for making that happen.

So, we cede the spotlight first to Stephanie Schneiderman. This erstwhile member of the folk-pop trio Dirty Martini has just released her 7th solo album, Rubber Teardrop. It continues in the downtempo sexy electronica vibe that she cooked up with collaborator Keith Schreiner on her previous effort Dangerous Fruit but manages to turn up the heat and the intensity throughout.

Ms. Schneiderman will be performing both an opening set with Dirty Martini and a headlining set of her solo work tonight at the Alberta Rose Theatre starting at 8:30 p.m.

I grew up in a house full of music. I have two older sisters and when we weren’t practicing on piano, French horn, clarinet and flute, we played records. We had this tiny little record player with horrible sounding speakers that kept cutting in and out. The first songwriters that stood out to me were Paul Simon, Pat Benatar and Billy Joel.

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Drink In The Atmosphere This Sunday

One of the most consistently brilliant hip-hop crews around, Atmosphere are coming to town to perform for their rabid fan base on Monday May 9th at the Roseland Theater. But you’ll have a chance to meet the boys behind the music in person if you stop by the downtown Jackpot Records on Sunday the 8th at 3pm. They’ll be hanging out behind the counter, autographing copies of their most recent album The Family Sign, and drinking in the adoration of Portland’s hip-hop heads.

Here’s what the good people of Jackpot had to say about this Sunday’s in-store:

Super solid, highly respected and always in our rotation hip hop crew Atmosphere will be turning up at our Downtown location to meet, greet and sign copies of their new album The Family Sign.

Released on April 12 and available at both Jackpots right now, the new cd/lp is another bulletproof entry in one of the most revered contemporary discographies.  Atmosphere will be hanging out starting at 3PM at our Downtown location.  Come by and say hi or get something signed.  We will have plenty of copies of the new album on hand but no purchase is required so just come and enjoy yourself!

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My First Record with Lovers

The sound of the band known as Lovers is one that feels like the logical extension of the raw punk and rock that came out of the Riot Grrrl movement in the ’90s, even though they sound nothing like their forebears. Instead, these three women embrace the sound of disco and pop, turning the romantic yearnings that sidle through the warm synth drawls and skip-step beats into statements of sexual empowerment and political truth.

The trio are hitting the road for the next two months to bring their powerful and danceable sound to the entire U.S. But before they did singer Carolyn Berk was kind enough to offer up a touching remembrance of the first album that changed her life.

I think the first album I remember responding to in a very visceral way is probably Green, by R.E.M. And particularly I remember the song “You Are The Everything” really touching my heart and being very transformative, as honest and courageous art can be.

I was probably about 15 or 16, my mother had recently died. It was not by any means an easy or peaceful passing, and my father and brother and I had all turned very inward. I remember being in high school, and my father would go to sleep and I would stay up alone in the kitchen and sing that song.

There was also that song, “The Wrong Child,” which expanded my consciousness by being both so vulnerable and so empathetic. The expression of gender on that album felt very real to me, and I was desperate for realness, alone in the cold and motherless suburbs. That album was maybe my first cathartic experience.

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TVD PDX Picks For The Week Of May 2nd, 2011

Here are the shows you won’t want to miss going on in Portland this week.

Fight Amp (above)/Wizard Rifle @ Tube (18 NW 3rd) Monday May 2nd This fine double billing matches up Wizard Rifle, one of Portland’s best up-and-coming young acts that meshes the bombast of prog rock with the blistering squall of technical metal, with Fight Amp, a band from New Jersey that hearkens back to the halcyon days of Amphetamine Reptile Records with their muscular punk-infused sludge.

Battles @ Doug Fir Lounge (830 E Burnside) Wednesday May 4th When it was announced that Tyondai Braxton was leaving Battles to pursue his solo career, many folks were worried that it would mark the end of the band as a whole or at least put a wrench into their creative heart. But from the sound of the band’s second full-length Gloss Drop (out on Warp Records in June), they are still as wily and punchy and vibrant as ever. And their live show is an unbeatable combination of sweat and volume.

Zola Jesus/Pete Swanson @ Holocene (1001 SE Morrison) Thursday May 5th Not only is this show a must-see as it brings Zola Jesus, one of the most original voices in the indie world, back to Portland for what should be another stunning performance, but it also marks one of Pete Swanson’s last live appearances in the Rose City for some time. This month, he leaves for a Master’s program at Columbia. He will be missed.

Willamette Week’s Best New Band Showcase @ Mississippi Studios (3939 N Mississippi) Friday May 6th This week, the music lovers in Portland will have much cause for joy, debate, and consternation as Willamette Week releases their annual Best New Band edition. Full disclosure: as a writer for WW, I was able to vote in the poll and wrote a profile on one of the top 10 bands for the paper. BUT, I only know who ONE of the winning bands are…but regardless, this is going to be a great night of great music featuring, yes, some of the best Portland musicians playing right now. Top it all off with the fact that it is FREE.

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A Sweet Thursday For Portland Music Fans

Is everyone still working for the weekend? Does that still happen? If so, you people are seriously missing out on some amazing stuff going on during the days that don’t start with “S”.

For starters, if you saunter down to the downtown Everyday Music today at 3pm, you’ll be treated to a free in-store performance (acoustic, I do believe) by Merrill Garbus, the young polymath musician who records under the hard to type name of tUnE-yArDs. Ms. Garbus is on tour right now in support of her second full-length, the also hard to type w h o k i l l. She’ll be playing tonight at the Doug Fir Lounge (with some fantastic opening acts, Buke & Gass, and White Hinterland), a 21+ venue, so all you underagers will get your shot at seeing her in person.

Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages are welcome at the Hollywood Theatre tonight where the peerless record label Sublime Frequencies and local record shop Exiled Records are hosting a screening of two incredible documentaries about music from far-flung parts of the globe. One, The World Is Unreal Like A Snake In A Rope, is a gorgeous collage of sights and sounds from Tamil Nadu region of India; the other, Land of The Songhai, as the description says “explores the music and landscape of Songhai country in Western Niger.”

The directors of the films, Robert Millis and Hisham Mayet (the latter being one of the founders of Sublime Frequencies), will be in attendance to answer questions about their work. And hopefully the label will have some of their amazing limited-edition LP compilations there for sale as well.

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My First Record w/ Tim Hinely

For the past 24 years, Tim Hinely has been documenting the worlds of indie, punk, power pop, garage rock, and beyond in his self-published ‘zine Dagger. A peerless supporter of the above scenes, and the world of rock mags both big and small, Hinely is equally loud and proud about the things that he absolutely loves and the things that he can’t stand. In a word of waffling online writing that rides the fence lest the authors lose advertisers or hits to their pages, Hinely’s ideals have become far too rare, and should be celebrated.

I blame it on the neighbor kid, Scott Baker. This was in the mid-’70s in suburban southern New Jersey (Linwood to be exact). He was a few years older but had a sister my age and a brother a year older than me so we all hung out and played sports (that family was real big into sports). In between trading baseball cards and pickup games of whiffle ball, discussions of music would occasionally creep into the conversations. He told us about a band called the Electric Light Orchestra that we had to get into. “You have to get the record Ole ELO. It’s the best!” I bought that record and he was right, I was quite smitten with that band but it was his next suggestion that sent me over the top: The Beach Boys’ Endless Summer!

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May Instore Performances At Music Millennium

Hard to believe but the month of May is just around the corner. And while that does mean warmer weather and another month of baseball (at least that’s what I think about), it also means that Music Millennium is lining up some awesome events at their store on E Burnside.

May will bring an appearance (autograph signing only, sadly) by legendary surf-popsters The Ventures, Seattle roots-rock outfit Massy Ferguson, and a performance by the great Steve Earle.

Peep the rest of the schedule as it stands right now, and be sure to keep an eye on Music Millennium’s website for additions and changes to the schedule.

Brian Oberlin
Sunday, May 1, 2011 at 3:00pm

Community Day/Songwriters Circle
Rich Waggoner, Mindy Dillard, Eric McEuen
Monday, May 2, 2011 at 7:00pm

Thursday, May 5, 2011 at 6:00pm

Saturday, May 7, 2011 at 5:00pm

Steve Earle
Pre-buy a copy of the album for guaranteed admission.
Sunday, May 8, 2011 at 3:00pm

The Ventures (signing)
Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 7:30pm

Level Flow
Friday, May 13, 2011 at 6:00pm

Joe Pug
Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 3:00pm

Silverstein/Bayside CD signing
Sunday, May 15, 2011 at 4:30pm

Lew Jones
Friday, May 20, 2011 at 6:00pm

Massy Ferguson
Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 5:00pm

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TOMORROW: Pains Of Being Pure At Heart In-Store @ Jackpot Downtown

They may just be getting things cleaned up from Record Store Day 2011 and Red Fang’s raucous in-store performance, but Jackpot Records‘ downtown location is ready to welcome another acclaimed band in for a daytime performance tomorrow.

This time it is San Francisco’s dream poppers The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. The quartet is on the road in support of their fine sophomore LP Belong, and will be playing a 21+ show at the Doug Fir Lounge. So this is your only chance tomorrow to catch a set of catchy, shoegaze-y pop if you are below the drinking age. It all starts at 2pm at the Jackpot Records at 203 SW 9th Ave.

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TVD Vinyl Giveaway: Win A Copy Of Big Pauper’s Beyond My Means

You’ve already read his amazing My First Record post here on The Vinyl District. And hopefully that led you to check out his music. And if you’re like us, you probably loved what you heard and wanted to have some to call your own.

Well, good people, you are in luck.

Big Pauper and his label Circle Into Square are offering up three copies of his new amazing new album Beyond My Means!

All you have to do to win is this: leave a comment to this post telling us what you would buy first if you decided to live beyond your means.

We’ll pick the best three answers and send the writers their very own copy of the new Big Pauper LP. Make sense? Gosh, I hope so.

Contest ends on Monday April 25th at 11:59pm PT. Plenty of time to think up a great answer and to enter. And while you’re working on that, check out Big Pauper’s video for his track “First Trimester, Second Month” below.

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My First Record with Ghostwriter

For the past nine years, Ghostwriter (known to his family as Steve Schecter) has been strapping on a dirty-sounding hollow body guitar and using it to tear out some vicious country-blues riffs, while straining his already tortured vocal chords to spell out stories of working men, hard living, and kicking against the pricks. The hard-working Schecter is also a testament to the DIY spirit, releasing all of his albums on his own and booking all of his shows and tours (including a recent date in Portland opening up for Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds).

Some of my earliest memories are of records blasting through the house. My folks have always been really into music, which is lucky growing up in Friend, Oregon (rural Wasco County). We didn’t have TV reception, so the stereo was our focal point. There are stories of me bouncing on the couch to Waylon Jennings as a toddler, and I have faint memories of Kristofferson and Dylan. But Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True has to be the first album I really remember being infatuated with.

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Record Store Roundup For Record Store Day (And Beyond)

Mere hours are between you and your favorite unsanctioned holiday of the year: Record Store Day. I’m already buzzing at the prospect of getting my hands on some exclusive wax and then getting a bacon maple bar or 12 from Voodoo Doughnut’s mobile service at the downtown Jackpot.

Now, we’ve already clued you into the many shops that are doing special stuff for RSD 2011, from the aforementioned Jackpot to Music Millennium to the good folks at Record Room and Tender Loving Empire and Everyday Music. But those are hardly the only shops that provide you and I with our regular fixes of new tunes. And while we haven’t heard from many of those stores about special stuff they have going on tomorrow, we’d be remiss if we didn’t encourage you to stop by either tomorrow or at some point during your frantic hunt for that rare Flock of Seagulls 12″.

I won’t take the time to link you every one…because someone has done that for me! The good people at Stumptown Printers have run off hundreds of copies of the 2011 Portland Guide to Independent Record and CD Stores that you can pick up around town, and have given you the list of all the shops in the guide on their website as an online reference. There are plenty of places worthy of your time and money, so close your eyes, pick a shop, and give them your business.

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