Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

Speelburg,
The TVD First Date

“I was born at a perfect time. I got to experience a house full of music and full of CDs.”

“My mother, a perfect target for the entertainment industry’s ephemeral mediums, would, every 5 to 10 years, throw out the old and make way for the new. This is not to say that she was wasteful—she rode the big waves. Cassettes to CDs. VHS to DVDs. Eventually doing away with all the plastic boxes and putting them all in zip-up cases. It was all in an attempt to declutter.

I of course, in the wake of all this change, have swung the other way and will happily place nostalgia on a golden pedestal. I think about the bad quality of the movies we taped straight from TV and every radio introduction that overflowed when I taped a song off my boom-box with admiration. The movie channel would occasionally play a behind-the-scenes short, and though I’m glad I can find it on YouTube now, that was as much a part of watching Hook as was watching Rufio tear it up with the Lost Boys or seeing Peter using his “imagination” for the first time (that movie rules and you’re dead inside if you think otherwise).

And then Napster happened. There were a couple of years before getting my first MP3 player where, inexplicably, my dad bought a portable Mini-Disc player and would let me use it so I could record my own 128 kbps, illegally downloaded Incubus, Beastie Boys, and Sublime mixtapes. It’s funny to think how awful the quality must have been, but it didn’t matter, because you could bring your favorite songs with you anywhere.

When I was 14 or 15, my mom found a turntable with a busted needle and a crateful of vinyl by a dumpster—clearly a kindred spirit going through their own cleanse. So we brought it home and went through it all. There must have been 30 records in there, but I can only remember 3 of them: The Best Of Beethoven, a Donna Summer record and John Barry’s soundtrack to You Only Live Twice.

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The Rubinoos
and Chuck Prophet,
The TVD Interview & Premiere, “Phaedra”

Power pop stalwarts The Rubinoos first emerged at a high school hop in Berkeley, California nearly a half century ago. With a couple of career defining albums on Beserkley Records, the band brought vocal-rich tunes and a penchant for covers that would try the patience of the most open-minded rockers.

Still, their version of Tommy James & the Shondells’ “I Think We’re Alone Now” got some traction in 1977; their 1979 power pop original “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” proved so catchy it landed Avril Lavigne in court for maybe borrowing too much of it for her 2007 single “Girlfriend,” and they did the title song for the film Revenge of the Nerds. Over the years, they wrote and covered songs from “Rhapsody in the Rain” to “Hats Off to Larry” to “Yo Ho,” the Pirates of the Caribbean amusement park ride theme.

Sporadic recording followed a 15 year hiatus, but now one of their biggest early fans, Chuck Prophet, has teamed up with them for their new album due in stores on August 23 via Yep Roc, From Home, with every one of the tracks co-written by the prolific Prophet with the band’s Tommy Dunbar.

And though there are no covers this time, there are some shout outs to some of the acts that fueled their early love for rock ’n’ roll, from the DeFranco Family to the Troggs to the Honeycombs. The Vinyl District is proud to premiere one of its tracks, “Phaedra” a pean to the ancient goddess that also has roots in a classic 45, Lee Hazlewood’s “Some Velvet Morning” with Nancy Sinatra.

We talked to the band founding members Dunbar and lead singer Jon Rubin, as well as rocker and producer Prophet, in a California conference call about the single and the new LP, their love for the old Cruisin’ albums, and that time they got booed at a Jefferson Starship show at Winterland.

What was the origin of “Phaedra”?

Chuck: I think one of the things that was kind of a challenge about writing this record, is that we’ve got guys here that are a certain age. The first couple records had songs like “Can I come over tonight…will your parents be home?” They seem unseemly.

Jon: We can’t sing those songs any more.

Chuck: So, we figured out songs where we can thank the goddesses and address the boy/girl thing in more of a mythical way.

Tommy: It’s funny you mention Lee Hazlewood, because that’s where I got the name from. It was like, that’s a cool name. It alliterates very well.

A couple of other songs on From Home name check influences in “Do You Remember” and “Honey from the Honeycombs.”

Tommy: It’s funny, the band will have been playing together in some form for 50 years come 2020, and to me Honeycombs records aren’t nostalgic in that we still listen to that stuff. But “Do You Remember” was a lot of—I remember Chuck picking my brain. “What did you do on…” “Oh, yeah, that was off of Kings Road.” “Do You Remember” is very much a history of the band.

Chuck: And also what made “Do You Remember” work for me, is that very much like The Beatles, Tommy and Jon would sing almost in unison just because they got more power. Like if you listen to the early Beatles, Cavern Club era, John and Paul sing together and they have the power. By the time they get to Abbey Road, they’re almost like a prog band, you know what I mean? Everyone is off doing their own thing. It’s a special thing when Jon and Tommy sing in unison in a four piece band. And I don’t even think there’s a couple of minor overdubs on “Do You Remember.”

Jon: In the early days of The Rubinoos, Tommy and I used to sing together all the time. I mean, on tons and tons of songs. And a lot of that was inspired by The Beatles because we thought by the two of us singing together, we came up with third lead vocal voice.

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Graded on a Curve:
Elton John,
Goodbye Yellow
Brick Road

“Ridicule,” said Oscar Wilde, “is the tribute paid to genius by mediocrities.” Such would seem to be the case with one Sir Elton Hercules John. Esteemed critic Robert Christgau once wrote him off as a “puling phony,” while Charles Shaar Murray dismissed him as “Elton Schmelton.” Even John understood he lacked respect, and jokingly told Murray, “I’m gonna become a rock’n’roll suicide, take my nasty out and piddle all over the front row, just to get rid of my staid old image.”

Elton never carried through on his threat, probably because he was too busy writing brilliant songs, more than I can count on my six hands even. Besides, who needs critical respect after scoring seven consecutive No. 1 albums in the U.S. between 1972 and 1975—a feat not even the Fab Four could beat? During those golden years, which extended from Honky Chateau to Rock of the Westies, John (in collaboration with lyricist Bernie Taupin) churned out hits like a one-man Brill Building, and many of them will still be around long after mankind is gone, leaving our groovy ape successors to do the Crocodile Rock.

John’s high-water mark as a songwriter was 1973’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. I consider it Elton’s masterpiece, even if The Evil One, Robert Christgau, dismissed it as “one more double album that would make a nifty single.” A concept album of sorts, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road takes a bittersweet look at a lost past, from its film stars to its dance crazes to its bovver boys in their braces and boots looking to mix it up on Saturday night.

Perhaps the most astounding thing about John’s unprecedented success is that he achieved it with Bernie Taupin—a mediocre lyricist at best, and the fourth place finisher in a 3rd grade poetry competition at worst—as a collaborator. Not only is Taupin the mook who wrote “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids/In fact it’s cold as hell/And there’s no one there to raise them/If you did,” it’s his lyrical DNA police found all over Starship’s “We Built This City,” a song so unfathomably dumb it makes Jon Anderson’s “A seasoned witch could call you from the depths of your disgrace/And rearrange your liver to the solid mental grace” sound like Shakespeare. That said, his lyrics on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road are shockingly unterrible, and a few of them are actually quite good.

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TVD Radar: The Pop Group debut LP Y reissue in stores 11/1

VIA PRESS RELEASE | The Pop Group announce the reissue of their highly influential and innovative debut album Y through Mute on November 1. For the definitive edition, Y has been remastered and cut at half-speed at Abbey Road Studios for enhanced sound quality. The band’s landmark debut single, “She Is Beyond Good & Evil,” will be reissued alongside Y as a bonus 12”. 

To mark the 40th anniversary of the album, the band are releasing two limited edition box sets that include the original album, the 12” of “She Is Beyond Good & Evil” and two additional albums: Alien Blood and Y Live, as well as an extensive booklet and art prints. A deluxe version of the set limited to 500 copies will include 180gm Inca gold vinyl pressings with two signed prints.

Originally released on April 20, 1979, Y represents a stunning culmination of The Pop Group’s crucial nonconformity. Preceded by a meteoric rise in recognition, Y firmly realized the latent potential of the group’s early years. From playing Bristol youth clubs to early gigs supporting Pere Ubu and Patti Smith to gracing the front covers of NME and Melody Maker, The Pop Group’s progression to the forefront had been swift. With the recording of Y, they were to build on the promise of these earlier experiences and of their first recordings, delivering a debut album that transcends most, if not all, classification and one that exists in a league of its own.

Recorded in 1978, the Y sessions were conducted at Ridge Farm in Dorking, Surrey, an experience the band’s bassist Simon Underwood now characterizes as “an intense and electrifying journey of creative exploration and experimentation.”

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Graded on a Curve:
Randy Newman,
12 Songs

In my mind’s eye I see Randy Newman supine on a sofa, taking an afternoon nap. Or a morning nap. Or an evening nap. It doesn’t matter. Or I see him in a comfortable armchair watching television, an old movie perhaps, or a documentary about acid rain, or an infomercial–anything at all really, he doesn’t care. He looks as blissful as a Buddha, but he’s talking it all in. Nothing escapes his amused notice. It’s all material for his fantastic songs.

Randy Newman is an unprepossessing fellow, and he likes it that way. He doesn’t worry too much about his image because in a sense he doesn’t have one–he’s spent his whole career hiding behind masks, amidst personae, inhabiting characters who aren’t Randy Newman.

I’m talking a rogue’s gallery of miscreants–whether they be wicked, deranged, pathetic, megalomaniacal, impotent, deluded, dumb but not nearly as dumb as you might think, sad, self-aware but only to a point, proud for no damn reason at all. I could go on, but suffice it to say they’re a terribly flawed bunch, and therein lies their pathos: all of them, no matter how awful, are human to a fault.

Newman gets tagged as a singer-songwriter, but singer-songwriters bare their souls; Randy’s far too reticent a soul for such confessional nonsense, and far too modest as well–Randy Newman would be the first person to tell you there’s nothing very interesting about Randy Newman. No, the label is accurate only to the extent that he writes and sings his own songs and performs a whole lot of them all by his lonesome on the piano.

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TVD Radar: Ben Folds’ memoir A Dream About Lightening Bugs in
stores 7/30

VIA PRESS RELEASE | A Dream About Lightning Bugs reads like its author: intelligent, curious, unapologetically punk, and funny as hell. This intimate look at his life from his own unique perspective is a rare and unforgettable gift that does what Ben Folds always has done for me as an artist and a friend: encourages me to be more myself, with a lot of swear words.”Sara Bareilles

Multi-platinum selling singer-songwriter Ben Folds is known for his musical genius and spontaneous creativity – composing a song with the National Symphony Orchestra live, collaborating with the likes of Sara Bareilles, Regina Spektor, and William Shatner, serving as a judge for five seasons on NBC’s acclaimed a capella show The Sing-Off, being named the first-ever artistic advisor to the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, being an outspoken champion for arts education and music therapy. It’s not been an easy road to get to where he is today, but the ups and downs are what Folds insists are essential for any artist.

Now, Folds looks back at his life so far in a charming and wise chronicle of his artistic coming-of-age, infused with the wry observations of a natural storyteller. In his first book A DREAM ABOUT LIGHTNING BUGS (Ballantine hardcover goes on sale July 30), he opens up about finding his voice as a musician, becoming a rock anti-hero, and hauling a baby grand piano on and off stage for every performance.

A native of North Carolina, Folds writes that as an infant his cradle was a cardboard box, while his family’s mode of transportation was a doorless convertible jeep, where a 4-month-old Ben would sit in catapult position. He discovered his love of the piano in second grade, and from there we follow his journey to becoming the musician he wanted to be.

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TVD Radar: It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on glow-in-the-dark vinyl in stores 8/30

VIA PRESS RELEASE | On the eve of Vince Guaraldi being honored with the American Eagle Award by the National Music Council, Craft Recordings is celebrating Guaraldi’s 91st birthday by announcing the first-ever vinyl release of his iconic music for It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

The debut vinyl release for this time-honored soundtrack will be available August 30th via Craft Recordings. Featuring music by GRAMMY®-winning composer/performer Vince Guaraldi, the package includes the iconic pumpkin as an etching on side B. The album also includes an introduction from the TV special’s executive producer Lee Mendelson and insightful liner notes by Derrick Bang, Peanuts historian and author of Vince Guaraldi at the Piano. A special limited edition (500 copies only) — pressed on a glow-in-the-dark vinyl — will be available exclusively at the Craft Recordings Store.

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (Music from the Soundtrack) features some of the most iconic tracks in pop culture, including the instantly recognizable “Linus and Lucy,” as well as the languid, lyrical “Great Pumpkin Waltz.” The music was recorded on October 4, 1966 at Desilu’s Gower Street Studio in Hollywood, California by Guaraldi (piano) and his longtime friends and trio sidemen — bassist Monty Budwig and drummer Colin Bailey — joined by Emanuel Klein (trumpet), John Gray (guitar), and Ronald Lang (woodwinds). The entire scoring process was overseen by composer, arranger and conductor John Scott Trotter, well known for a three-decade run as Bing Crosby’s music director and close friend.

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The Schramms,
The TVD First Date

“It all started with Mitch Miller. That’s my best guess.”

“My parents had this massive, hulking hi-fi console in the living room. More sideboard than record player. Lift the top to discover turntable. Stash of long players tucked beside. Many of them Sing Along With Mitch albums, that Columbia A&R man turned TV host. I was fascinated by the mechanism of the phonograph, and probably less so by those sounds, though a seven-year old is less discriminating. There were also records produced by the Longines Symphonette Society, and a box set of big band sides. I liked Artie Shaw. Still do. Nightmare!! I was also fascinated by this cutting edge technology—the turntable had one of those stacking spindles. Load up four or five LPs at a time. Whirr, click, drop, slide like a worn clutch plate onto the disc below.

This machine could also spin at the accelerated speed of 78 rpm, and there were some of those discs as well, most notably two by my grandfather, Dmitri Potochak. He played clarinet and had a polka band, just successful enough to record two discs, one on Okeh and one on Columbia. Wish I knew where they were today.

Then there were my big sister’s 45s. Beatles, Lesley Gore, Petula Clark. Played those on her big spindle changer. Instant playlist. Later, when I got around to my first LP purchase at the local department store, it was Revolver. This was something like a graduation. Soon Revolver was followed by Aftermath, and Fifth Dimension (Byrds album, not the group) and oh yeah, Freak Out! Eventually there were more Stones records, and Safe as Milk, Strictly Personal, and We’re Only In It For The Money, an album whose cover particularly horrified my mother. Most of the earnings from my paper route went to records. One exception was a used $35 Univox hollow body.

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Graded on a Curve: George Harrison,
All Things Must Pass

I have been guilty of saying mean things about George Harrison in the past, most of them having to do with the lugubrious and often wimpy tenor of the ex-Beatles solo work. But I am here today, dear members of the committee, to recant. I’ve been listening to 1970’s sprawling All Things Must Pass, and while it has its share of doleful bummers, what strikes me about it now is how hard it rocks. The most anonymous Beatle could cook when he felt like it, and on All Things Must Pass he frequently felt like it, as did co-guitarists Eric Clapton and Dave Mason, and when all is said and done I’m forced to agree with critic Mikal Gilmore, who called All Things Must Pass “the finest solo work any ex-Beatle ever produced.” And its flaws make that assessment all the more remarkable.

The studio sessions were a clusterfuck, with superstars being dragooned left and right. The line-up included the players who would soon form Derek and the Dominos as well as the members of Badfinger, to say nothing of folks like Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Ginger Baker, and Gary Wright. Why, even Phil Collins played on one track. There was also extensive overdubbing, and while the production duties were formally in the hands of the mercurial Phil Spector, Harrison has said Spector required 18 cherry brandies just to BEGIN work, leaving poor George to handle much of the production himself. In addition, Harrison’s mother was dying, and he was nurturing a burgeoning heroin addiction.

Let me make it clear from the start; I’m not much for “My Sweet Lord,” the song the LP is probably best known for, nor am I wild about its companion piece, “Help Me Lord.” LP opener “I’d Have You Anytime,” which was co-written by Harrison and Bob Dylan, does nothing for me, nor do the run of the mill “Run of the Mill,” the milquetoast “I Live for You,” and the “I need love” sentimentality of “I Dig Love.” But I’ve changed my mind about the title track—it’s prettier than I remember—as well as about the Dylan cover “If Not For You,” a song whose laid back charms (great guitar riff, some nice harmonica by Harrison, catchy tambourine, etc.) had previously eluded me.

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Graded on a Curve:
Ringo Starr,
Ringo

News flash! Critic declares Ringo Starr greatest ex-Beatle! Rioting breaks out in hipster enclaves! Brooklyn in flames! Incensed Lennonites carry signs: “Michael Little = Dingbat!” Hairy Harrisonoids counsel karmic calm: “This too shall pass!” McCartney maniacs attempt to sooth selves with “Silly Love Songs”! NME headline reads: “Panned on the run!”

In my dreams. But it’s what I really believe. I really believe that Ringo Starr, who never got no respect and was the comic foil and clown of the legendary Fab Four has—over the almost four-and-a-half decades since the Beatles went the way of the Ono, er make that Dodo—produced far more genuinely likeable pop songs than any of his “genius” fellow Mop Toppers.

But first, a sordid confession. I’ve never cared much for Ringo’s old band. I can count on one hand the number of Beatles songs I really love (“Helter Skelter,” “She Said She Said,” “Hey Jude,” “Tomorrow Never Knows,” and “Let It Be”). As for most of the rest of their oeuvre, it could vanish into the void and I would never miss it. And there are plenty of songs (the dreadful “Long and Winding Road,” the hideous “Something,” and the unpalatable “Got to Get You Into My Life”) whose disappearance would make me very happy. As for the post-Beatles work of John, Paul, and George, I can think of maybe one or two (at most) songs I love by each of them. Shit, Ringo matched them with ONE single, 1971’s “It Don’t Come Easy” backed by “Early 1970,” a very funny series of good-natured jibes about his former band mates.

I always liked Ringo best because he wasn’t touted as a genius (although he’s a great drummer) by anyone. I’m an underdog guy, and Ringo was the ultimate underdog. Nobody expected much of him after the Beatles imploded, sucked into the black holes of John and Paul’s grossly oversized egos. And it isn’t as if Ringo has come through with a slew of artistic masterpieces. But since 1970 he’s put out a bunch of really cool pop songs, low brow it’s true, but I don’t give a shit where a song’s brow is (it can be a Neanderthal for all I care) if it has a good melody and I find myself singing along.

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TVD Premiere: Alex
Haas / Bill Laswell,
“Hard to Believe”

The NYC duo of Alex Haas and Bill Laswell came to be after both men bonded over a shared love of ’90s Trip Hop, the majority of which bubbled out of the UK after the tsunami of creativity set off by Massive Attack and Portishead.

Their love for this niche genre is understandable, but it’s an interesting choice being that they’ve both dialed in some of the biggest marquee rock acts of the past half-century. Their resumes read like a music nerd’s bucket list, checking off sessions for David Bowie, The Ramones, Prince, Brian Eno, U2, and Eric Clapton. Bill Laswell’s has put inimitable stamp on nearly 3,000 recording projects by such artists as Mick Jagger, Yoko Ono, Iggy Pop, Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno, Bootsy Collins, Nine Inch Nails, Motorhead, Peter Gabriel, and Blur.

Clearly they have learned to apply their craft to more obtuse, electronic based music, choosing to create an instrumental album that reflects the organized chaos and urban flux of their native NYC.

Today, TVD is pleased to present their lead-off single “Hard to Believe” from the forthcoming LP Smoke and Glass. It’s a meditative composition that boasts a gritty horn arrangement, rumbling synths, and scattershot beat. The combo of instruments is restrained yet sonically rich, resulting in a well-calibrated slice of jazzy electronica, halfway between Tricky and Miles Davis.

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Graded on a Curve:
Bad Education Vol. 1: Soul Hits of Timmion Records

Out July 19 on vinyl, CD, and digital, Bad Education Vol. 1: Soul Hits of Timmion Records delivers many things at once: Foremost, it documents the high quality found in the recordings issued by the Timmion label of Helsinki, Finland. It’s also testament to the good taste of Daptone enterprises, who compiled and are co-releasing the LP, and additionally emphasizes the soul scene camaraderie in the association. Furthermore, with Carlton Jumel Smith, Nicole Willis, Wanda Felicia, Bobby Oroza and others on board, it underscores that soul singing is far from a lost art. Just as importantly, the instrumental contributions are consistently sharp.

In short, Timmion Records offers the whole package in soul terms, with Bad Education serving as a fine primer into their discography. For those already hip to Timmion’s wares, all but one track is previously released, either on 45 or LP. However, everything here unwinds with such well-considered verve that folks who already own most (or even all) of these selections might end up springing for a copy anyway.

It kicks off with one of the highlights from Carlton Jumel Smith’s 1634 Lexington Avenue, a recent release (just a smidge over two months old, in fact) that establishes the label’s foothold on soul quality hasn’t loosened. Upbeat, brightly hued and oozing positivity, “This Is What Love Looks Like!” is tangibly early ’70s in its soulfulness. The guitar line is fleet, the saxophones hearty, and Smith is in firm command.

It’s followed by El-Paso, TX-born, San Diego, CA-raised Jonny Benavidez’s falsetto showcase “Tell Me that You Love Me,” culled from a 2017 45 where he’s backed by Timmion house band Cold Diamond & Mink, who lend plenty of warmth and enough rhythmic kick to insure things don’t go full-on velvety (Benavidez’s vocal panache could’ve carried this into straight-up lovey-dovey mode).

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TVD Radar: Gregg Allman, Laid Back and The Gregg Allman Tour reissues in stores 8/30

VIA PRESS RELEASE | A few months after the Allman Brothers Band released their revered fourth studio album Brothers And Sisters, legendary frontman, vocalist, pianist Gregg Allman stepped out on his own with his masterful debut solo album Laid Back. Co-produced by Allman along with Johnny Sandlin, the collection of songs was a creative outlet where he was able to assume full control and explore his varying influences, including rhythm and blues and soul music.

Exemplified by the album title’s relaxed approach, the songs were a departure from his band’s guitar-heavy sound in favor of gospel-tinged organs, slower tempos and a choir, all of which beautifully buoyed Allman’s soulful, and at times, mournful vocals. On several songs he sounds like a man reflecting on the last few tumultuous years which included the deaths of his bandmates, brother Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, hard touring and incredible success. Of the album, NPR wrote, “It’s amazing stuff, deep and intense yet nowhere near the decibel levels of his work with the band. Allman is amazing when he’s belting his heart out about being tied to the whipping post. But he’s equally compelling – maybe even more so – in a quieter space, when he’s less fired up.”

Upon release in October 1973, Laid Back received positive reviews and peaked at number 13 on Billboard’s Top LPs & Tape chart while “Midnight Rider” became a top 20 hit across North America. To support the album, Allman embarked on an unprecedented tour accompanied by a 24-piece orchestra comprising members of the New York Philharmonic, which was captured for posterity on 1974’s The Gregg Allman Tour live album.

To honor this creatively fertile period in the late musician’s life, Mercury/UMe are reissuing Laid Back in a variety of formats, including a remastered and expanded Deluxe Edition on 2CDs and digital, 180-gram black vinyl and a 180-gram limited purple and white marbled color vinyl edition. Allman’s iconic live album The Gregg Allman Tour will also be released on 2LP vinyl for the first time since 1987. In addition to a 180-gram black vinyl pressing there will also be a limited color pressing on 180-gram grey and white marble vinyl. All releases will be available August 30 and are available for preorder now. The digital preorder of Laid Back includes an instant grat download of the unreleased demo of the Jackson Browne classic “These Days,” which is also available to stream now.

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Needle Drop: Carriers, “Make It Right”

PHOTO: MICHAEL WILSON | Cincinnati, Ohio sextet Carriers create lush indie rock, carried by the timeless songwriting of band spearhead Curt Kiser.

The group’s newest single, “Make It Right,” is a glistening slice of indie rock that owes as much to the positive vibes of ’80s Queen as it does to modern bands like The National and The War on Drugs. The track is lifted from the band’s newest LP, Now Is The Time For Loving Me, Yourself & Everyone Else, which expounds on the single’s self-reflective quality, boasting an array of well-conceived tracks that take stock of life, death, relationships, and general gratitude for all existence has to offer.

As Kiser details, “Overall it’s about appreciating what we have and remaining present, while still being able to have an honest perspective of the past and our future. I’ve personally found a lot of peace in just working hard and staying focused on what I’ve got going on, trusting, rather than being consumed with striving. This recording process has taught me a lot about patience. Life will continue to teach me to have more. I’m just trying to accept what happens and handle it the best I can.”

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Graded on a Curve:
Mark Mulcahy,
The Gus

Veteran singer-songwriter Mark Mulcahy, he of Miracle Legion and Polaris, has a new solo record out, adding to his already ample sum, and it’s safe to say that folks into his prior work will find it of interest. The artist’s aim to cut the record with strangers didn’t pan out, but the results still lack the aura of mere motions traversed. Inevitably deepening the familiarity that comes with a long career, The Gus is largely an invigorating and purposeful addition to his catalog. It’s out now on vinyl, compact disc, and digital via the Mezzotint label.

With his 2013 return to musical action Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You, the titular man received praise from novelist Rick Moody, which in literary terms is a considerable accolade. And for The Gus, which comes after 2017’s The Possum in the Driveway (his follow-up to Dear Mark J.), Mulcahy found inspiration in the writing of George Saunders.

This may leave Mulcahy newbies suspecting that he’s a fine lyricist (or at least trying to be), but unsure over his instrumental strengths. These doubts might relate to how musicians who get singled out for the quality of their words (or who find influence or simple stimulation between the covers of books) often accompany their verses and choruses with sounds that can strike the ear as almost an afterthought. Or perhaps the music is precious or trite (as if the lyrics are transforming cliché).

Worry not, however. While it’s clear Mulcahy spends time in the reading room, it’s just as plain he’s been inspired and has honed his craft in clubs and bars. Plus, he’s been at it a long time, with Miracle Legion debuting in the mid-’80s. Mulcahy has obviously witnessed a lot of changes firsthand, though his solo stuff has maintained a pretty consistent mingling of “classic” singer-songwriter and indie qualities.

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