Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

Heliotropes,
The TVD First Date

“I grew up in Foster City, California. It’s kind of like Legoland there—an aggressively suburban neighborhood built around the San Francisco Bay.”

“My parents ran a tight ship. There was always smooth jazz playing. David Benoit. John Tesh. Our white carpet remained white for years. There wasn’t really any recorded music around. My parents weren’t ‘cool.’ They just had KOIT on all the time. Lite rock, less talk.

I think for this reason I didn’t really encounter vinyl until I was about 13, when I bought a limited run Starchildren 7” at Tower Records in San Mateo. Starchildren was Billy Corgan’s side project. There was a Joy Division cover on the B-side, which is probably how I ever heard of Joy Division. I was the biggest Smashing Pumpkins fan ever. I didn’t even have a record player and that thing sat on my shelf until I sold it on Ebay for $70 sometime during the early 2000s.

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We’re seeking interns
for Summer 2016

They come, they go—every 6 months or so it seems, leaving an indelible mark at TVD and on their own careers. Some depart to labels. Some are drafted by PR firms. Hell, some even stay on as TVD editors from their own home city—they’re just that good.

We’re seeking bright, self motivated, articulate future music industry professionals to join our team on the content side as well as the marketing and social media outreach that informs the day to day at TVD. Candidates need not be in Washington, DC where we’re based to be considered—just be awake when we are.

Interested? Drop us an email introducing yourself.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Pooh Sticks,
“Alan McGee” EP

Swansea, Wales’ Pooh Sticks are one of my favorite bands, this despite the fact that they’re not really a band at all. They’re a collaborative enterprise between producer/svengali Steve Gregory and singer and instrumentalist Hue (or Huw) Williams aka, Hue Pooh-Stick, along with some “members” the duo invented (Trudi Tangerine, Paul, Stephanie Bass-Drum, and Alison) out of whole cloth. Together, the Pooh Sticks—with some real life vocal assistance from Amelia Fletcher of Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, etc.—started out as a lo-fi outfit but went power pop big time on 1991’s brilliant The Great White Wonder.

But it’s worth going back to 1988 and their “Alan McGee” EP, both because it’s a lo-fi lark and includes some great numbers besides. On “Alan McGee” Gregory and Williams—who have made a career of appropriating other peoples’ songs, song titles, album titles, you name it, filching whatever they find shiny in rock’s past like so many musical magpies—send up twee pop and its fanatical fans, bands, and producers, but it’s all in good, non-snarky fun.

“Indiepop Ain’t Noise Pollution” is typical, as are the hilarious female fans out to get their paws on Hue that open and close the EP. As for the Alan McGee of the title, he founded Creation Records and the Poptones label, and the winsome “I Know Someone Who Knows Someone Who Knows Alan McGee Quite Well” is the perfect parody of twee Scottish bands looking for a chance to finagle their way into the legendary career maker’s good graces.

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Blue Orchids,
The TVD First Date

“My dad got a record player in ’71, when I was fourteen.”

“I remember The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, and Buddy Holly. But with my pocket money I bought ‘Jeepster’ by T Rex, Sly & the Family Stone’s ‘Family Affair’ and others. As unhip as it was, the first piece of vinyl I remember was my dad’s copy of America’s attempt to write a Neil Young song, ‘A Horse With No Name.’ It was played a lot around the house.

Interestingly, it was a massive influence on Mark E Smith, the lead singer of my first real band, The Fall. You can hear its impact in the sprechstimme style of Mark’s voice. He doesn’t really sing or hold a melody. A lot of what he does comes out like that one long line—’in the desert you can remember your name, ‘cause they’re ain’t no one for to give you no pain,’ which barely has any melody. It’s perfect for the tone-deaf, I think that’s why it was a hit. I still hear America’s nearly tuneless ‘la la la la la la…’ in nearly every Fall song.

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Glint,
The TVD First Date

“Ever since a crate of original vinyl from the ’60s and ’70s was bestowed upon me by a family friend named Eric (either thanks to his ritualistic evening scotch or just the fact it was time for him to pass them on), I was fascinated.”

“Those large sleeves housed not only some of the most compelling and innovative music of those generations, but left visual gateways to those experiences. I could smell it. Holding those LPs in my hands while the record played felt like looking into forbidden windows, moments in time that are somehow concurrently timeless.

When I heard Bob Dylan on original vinyl I felt like I had never heard him sing before then. For me, it’s that canvas. To be honest, I most prefer the sound of cassettes, beats ’em all—through Neil Young’s Ponoplayer—whatever happened to that?”

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Graded on a Curve: Stryper,
To Hell with the Devil

I admit it; I’m in awe. In awe of the awesome chutzpah of the awesome dudes who actually thought they could make it in the heavy metal biz by eschewing metal’s standard demonic trappings in favor of an overtly Christian message. And who thought they could pull it off wearing yellow and black bee outfits, nonetheless. While tossing Bibles to the crowds at their concerts. But it worked. Good Lord, it worked! And Satan wept.

I’m of the Devil’s Party, but I firmly believe in giving the Loyal Opposition a listen. I mean, I’ve listened to straight edge (more or less against my will) and the message is about the same; no drugs, alcohol, casual sex, or smoking. Straight edge was all about keeping your head empty for no good reason. Stryper, on the other hand, was simply adhering to their interpretation of Christ’s message. And if your straight edgers had any guts they’d say to hell with the Devil, too, but they don’t. Strike one up for Stryper, bee outfits and all.

Stryper was, once you took away all the religious trappings, a standard mid-eighties MOR hair metal band. Vocalist Michael Sweet’s multi-octave vocals and guitar were standard issue, as were brother Robert Sweet’s drums, the wonderfully named Oz Fox’s lead guitar, and Tim Gaines’ (who was replaced during the sessions by Brad Cobb) bass. (Oh, and non-member John Van Tongeren contributed keyboards.) In short, nothing much, besides their faith, distinguished them from the hair metal pack. But something amazing happened with LP no. 3, 1986’s To Hell with the Devil. It blew up. Write it off to divine intervention, or the almost unfathomable stupidity of the American listening public, but To Hell with the Devil went platinum, and included two songs that scored near the top of MTV’s list of most-requested songs. The Devil must have thrown a hissy fit, and spent the entire day pouting.

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The Pop Group,
The TVD First Date

“Place the needle on the record…”

“We are talking Scotland in the early 1960s when one of the best things in the world was loading up the Dansette record player with a stack of 7-inch 45 rpm singles to see how many it could play…

It could be “Twist and Shout” (The Beatles) on top of “High Hopes” (Frank Sinatra) followed by the “Cindy Doll Record” (God knows who) and “The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond” (The Pipes and Drums of the Highland Regiment). Then slamming down on this 5-thick vinyl sandwich would come “Telstar” (The Tornados) by which time, the records would be scratching each other to oblivion.

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Graded on a Curve:
Wake Up You! The Rise and Fall of Nigerian
Rock, 1972–1977

Discussions of 1970s Nigerian music were once dominated by the Afrobeat achievements of Fela Kuti, but over the last 25 years a steady flow of releases have highlighted the country’s energetic and imaginative sounds. However, as the reissues amassed a newbie could end up at wit’s end over exactly where to start; happily, the two volumes comprising Now-Again Records’ Wake Up You! The Rise and Fall of Nigerian Rock 1972-1977 offer a splendid overview of its subject, combining wise choices with a wealth of info presented in two 100-plus page books, hardbound with the CD editions and softcover alongside the 2LPs. Novices rejoice, for both are out now.

It was directly following the Nigerian Civil War that a blend of R&B, funk, and rock briefly flourished in the country. This is no startling newsflash as labels like Strut and especially Soundway have been doing an admirable job in compiling the region’s output from the era for quite a while. Nigerian writer and musicologist Uchenna Ikonne has been at the forefront of this tide as a researcher and producer; amongst his recent credits is a marvelous 2013 showcase for his countryman William Onyeabor on Luaka Bop.

The dual platform Now-Again provides via Wake Up You! allows Ikonne to thoroughly relate the post-war landscape of Nigerian Rock, covering the bands, their regions and differences in style while highlighting the labels, the most productive of which was EMI, that distributed these recordings during their short window of popularity.

Instead of paraphrasing Ikonne’s work, this review will simply laud his impeccable scholarship and comment upon the sounds corralled in each set. Vol. 1 begins with the Formulars Dance Band’s “Never Never Let Me Down,” its soul/R&B base fortified with jubilant choruses and plentiful guitar wielding just a touch of psychedelia. The obvious Western influence continues in The Hygrades “Keep On Moving,” an undisguised James Brown rip complete with raw exclamations courtesy of Elvis Ato Arinze, though as it progresses the atmosphere is also a tad reminiscent of the Archie Bell & the Drells classic “Tighten Up.”

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The Vinyl Guide Podcast
with Nate Goyer

The Vinyl Guide is a weekly podcast for fans and collectors of vinyl records. Each week is an audio-documentary on your favourite records, often including interviews with band members and people who were part of the project.

It’s hosted by Nate Goyer, a self-described vinyl maniac who enjoys listening to records and sharing the stories behind them. Despite his Yankee accent, Nate lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife, 2 kids, and about 1,500 records. (But only about 1,000 of them his wife knows about.)

The Vinyl Guide takes records one by one, telling the tale of how they came to be, why the work is important, and then shares how collectors can tell one pressing from another. Learn more at the TheVinylGuide.com or simply subscribe via iTunes or RSS feed.

Eric Spitznagel goes on a journey to find the old record collection. Not copies of the records, the exact ones! The story is detailed in his new book Old Records Never Die and he shares some of the tales on today’s podcast. Plus we discuss a little known Pink Floyd secret message on their LP The Wall.

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Graded on a Curve:
Marissa Nadler, Strangers

A whole lot of singing and string picking transpired in the midst of the 2000s, but few of the those leading last decade’s indie folk pack have flourished like Marissa Nadler. Continuing the progression away from the guitar and vocal-based template the Massachusetts-based artist utilized roughly a dozen years ago, her latest LP finds her in typically strong form and with an abundance of inspired ideas; Strangers is out May 20 on Sacred Bones in the USA and Bella Union in Europe.

The above shouldn’t suggest Marissa Nadler’s early work was an example of generic strumming and vocalizing; 2004’s Ballads of Living and Dying was unusually mature for a debut, dominated by original songs that frequently registered as traditional material and delivered in a voice reminiscent of Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval minus the chanteuse allure.

If decidedly more folk oriented, Nadler inhabited the discerning regions of the stylistic spectrum, adapting words by Edgar Allen Poe and Pablo Neruda on her first album and tapping into relationship breakup territory for inspiration as she produced her sophomore effort, ’05’s The Saga of Mayflower May. While her development was part of the indie folk surge, she didn’t connect as Freaky or Weird, her mezzo-soprano revealing affinities with Kate Bush but without mimicking her ethereal qualities. Nadler has been classified as “dream-folk,” however.

The aftermath of said breakup persisted in shaping the Espers-assisted Songs III: Bird on the Water, the first of two for the Kermado label (her prior records were issued on the Eclipse imprint). But if derived from rocky subject matter, Nadler wasn’t a wrung-out dishcloth of emotion and she consistently sidestepped overly fragile modes right out of the gate. Furthermore, ’09’s Little Hells significantly broadened the music’s instrumental scope, though she had been subtly distinguishing herself from the standard folky thing all the way back to the beginning.

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