Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve: Descendents,
Milo Goes to College

Though it seems they perennially garner fewer accolades than their Cali cohorts Black Flag and the Minutemen, coffee-fueled Los Angelinos the Descendents’ full-length debut Milo Goes to College stands as one of the ‘80s indispensable punk documents. Its grooves are teeming with furious catchiness and what it lacks in good manners it more than makes up for in sheer gusto.  

I’ve fond memories of and considerable good will for the Descendents, namely the incarnations of the group that recorded up to and including the Enjoy! LP, but must say that from my viewpoint they can be easily underrated. Or maybe more appropriately, they often slip through the cracks, in large part due to the non-flash nature of their music and image. First and foremost about focused energy, they wrote tunes that joined musical and lyrical concerns triumphantly seeking to shirk the concept of the punk as a metal-studded casualty with a tube of Testors stuck up his/her nostril.

Occasionally described as “nerd-core,” their songs tackled topics like fishing, hanging out in nature, the joys of junk food, loyalty to friends, bodily gasses, the desire to not be a fuck-up, coffee, friction between cliques, and quite frequently late-adolescent struggles with the opposite sex. Many of these concerns have been addressed by other bands, but frankly a few haven’t, and certainly not with the appealingly direct (again, focused) musicality and no-frills sincerity that basically stands as their enduring legacy.

They began in ’79 with a 45 of surfy, poppy guitar rock “Ride the Wild” b/w “It’s a Hectic World.” While a nice enough first effort, it’s unrepresentative of where they would head after the addition of lynchpin vocalist Milo Aukerman on 1981’s “Fat” EP. The six songs grooved into that disc are characterized by short, sharp blasts of youthful punk action; some are melodic, others breakneck and spastic a la Hardcore, but they all still sound worthwhile as they creep up on thirty years of existence. Additionally, they serve as the template the band would refine on their next three releases.

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Jean Miche, The TVD First Date and Premiere, “Sous La Neige”

Like most artists living in NYC, it can be hard to meet up sometimes, so Jean Miche met up via WhatsApp to record themselves interviewing each other.

AKA JK: Hey, wanna do a walky talky interview?

La Fleur: Alright!

AKA JK: I guess we’re supposed to talk about records?

La Fleur: We’re supposed to talk about records? What are we supposed to say about records?

AKA JK: I dunno. I guess Jean Miche isn’t quite two years old, Jean Miche doesn’t have a lot of experience with records, huh?

La Fleur: Noooo, we don’t have any records. Actually, I’ve never… I’ve never been arrested in my life I don’t think.

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Graded on a Curve:
Rio Reiser, Rio I.

It is, upon occasion, the privilege of the humble music reviewer to introduce his or her audience to an artist they have almost certainly never heard of, because said artist hails from some god forsaken place like Germany, that dastardly nation responsible for spawning two world wars (and even worse!) my second ex-wife, who is a kind of one-person world war and against whom I hold a grudge because she won’t let me see our Chihuahua Rudi, who loathes everyone and everything and holds the world’s record for nonstop barking at 12 hours, 43 minutes, and 17 seconds.

Oh, I know that plenty of German bands have successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean to our shores. Can, Neu!, Kraftwerk, Trio, Scorpions, Rammstein, Tangerine Dream—the list goes on and on. (See Boney M., who many credit as one of Hitler’s much-vaunted vengeance weapons.) But singer/songwriter Rio Reiser is not amongst their ranks, and that’s too bad. Part of Reiser’s problem was that he was a pop rocker and sometimes folk musician, and such individuals have never broken through to an American audience. What’s more, he sang in German and his approach was frequently sentimental. Finally, his music varied widely in style from folk to pop to new wave to protopunk, making him a tough artist to put a label on.

This is exemplified on 1986’s Rio I., the first album Reiser recorded after leaving the similarly obscure but great Ton Steine Scherben, which aligned itself with West Germany’s squatter scene, as well as its student and labor movements. Ton Steine Scherben’s radical activities translated into mass popularity but no money, and dire financial straits were one of the reasons Reiser left the band, leading to accusations that he was a money-grubbing sellout. It’s true that Reiser’s highly successful debut album put him in the black, financially speaking, but it also happens to be, for many of the German youth who grew up listening to him, a sacred document. My ex- may have had a Kurt Cobain poster on her bedroom wall, but it was to Reiser she turned most often, for such songs as “Junimond” and the great “König Von Deutschland” (“King of Germany”).

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The Vinyl District Premiere: Fascinations Grand Chorus, “When You Make Up Your Mind”

PHOTO: KELLI McGUIRE | It’s easy to dig the smart sound of Fascinations Grand Chorus, a Brooklyn duo led by Stephanie Cupo who previously led the band Souvenir Stand, a New York outfit that used to play Nirvana’s “About a Girl” in the style of the Zombies.

Here, she’s paired with Andrew Pierce who is often described as her rival, though that’s given no explanation or particular proof. Actually they are clearly of the same mind in creating the kind of irresistible ’60s era pop, once thought disposable but which actually turns out to be indispensable.

After an introductory four song, self-titled debut EP that came out this summer, the duo is back this fall with its second four-track EP, “Actor / Actress” on October 14—and we’re happy to be premiering its first track, the sprightly “When You Make Up Your Mind.”

FGC has certainly made up its mind on approach, using all analog equipment to record her vintage organ work and the rest of the instruments, with no digital alterations, and keeping classic pop creators like Joe Meek in mind. It succeeds in creating a song that echoes the classics while sounding entirely brand new. Put on your go-go boots and dance.

Fascinations Grand Chorus’ new 4-track EP, “Actor / Actress” arrives in stores in November. Preorder it here.

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Graded on a Curve: Itasca,
Open to Chance

Currently residing in Los Angeles, Kayla Cohen records and performs under the moniker Itasca. Known for acid-folk of an uncommonly rich variety, her success derives from high-quality songs, beautiful vocals, and most strikingly, considerable acumen on guitar. Far from a typical strummer, she’s also no showboat; folks equally into Judee Sill and Bert Jansch should find Open to Chance to be a treat as she’s joined by a full band for the first time. It’s out September 30 on vinyl, compact disc, and digital through Paradise of Bachelors.

Although Kayla Cohen is far from the standard underground folkie, Itasca’s discography does begin in a manner that sorta harkens back to the genre’s boom years. Specifically, her self-released 2012 debut Grace Riders on the Road was offered on cassette in a miniscule run of 50 alongside a more substantial CDR edition of 300. Next came her 6-song “Proto” cassette from 2013, its number bumped up to 80 as circulated by the Belgian label Sloow Tapes. Naturally, it’s physical manifestation is scarce today and sadly, it doesn’t seem to be available digitally at the moment.

That’s not the case with Grace Riders on the Road, which is found on Itasca’s Bandcamp page. It captures the sound of one woman in a room with six strings as a touch of tape hiss emphasizes the modest but competent nature of the recording. Cohen’s playing is already very impressive here, the fingerpicking just weighty enough to keep her gently and occasionally airy songs from dissipating like plumes of incense smoke.

Her follow-up full length and vinyl debut arrived in ’14 on Ducktails dude Matthew Mondanile’s New Images label, and it documents a major step forward. Where her previous effort basically connected as an exponent of the 21st century u-ground folk impulse, Unmoored by the Wind deepened the scenario considerably; instead of simply being informed by the long solo folk chanteuse tradition, Cohen’s personality and ability shined so brightly that the disc could easy be passed-off as a reissue of a rare and high dollar artifact from the late ’60s-early ’70s.

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FLAWES,
The TVD First Date

Josh Carruthers: Alongside the obvious HMV, I used to love going to Bradley’s Records in Halifax, West Yorkshire growing up. I remember when I was 16 I plucked up enough courage and asked the owner if they would consider selling my band at the time’s debut EP. To my amazement they said yes and took a handful of CDs off me—I thought I’d won the lottery!

Freddie Edwards: I personally love Banquet Records in Kingston Upon Thames. They’ve grown over the years into much more than just a record store, constantly finding cool new bands to play intimate in-store gigs. I grew up nearby and can honestly say that they added huge amounts to the local music scene.

Part of the reason I love Banquet is that it’s not too big, you don’t have to walk for miles or ask countless shop assistants to find the genre you’re looking for. The selection of music they have is always really well-chosen and normally supportive of upcoming talent which is great.

JC: I would have to disagree, I love getting lost and losing all sense of time in the huge city centre record stores.

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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.

Van Halen were the most powerful band in the world in 1984. This is the story of that journey, their career-defining LP 1984, and an in-depth discussion with album artist, Margo Z. Nahas.

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Graded on a Curve: Richard Pinhas / Barry Cleveland, Mu

France’s Richard Pinhas first came to prominence as the leader of the cult prog outfit Heldon, but since the unit’s disbandment in 1979 the composer, guitarist, and electronics specialist has amassed a striking number of solo and collaborative efforts. Comprising the more positive half of a recent discographical spurt, Mu is a joint venture in tandem with fellow guitarist Barry Cleveland; featuring the talents of bassist Michael Manring and drummer Celso Alberti, it’s out now on CD and digital through Cuneiform Records.

The early entries in Richard Pinhas’ solo discography actually coincide with the existence of Heldon. Rhizosphere, Chronolyse, and Iceland emerged during the years ’77-’79, and all three recordings have since been returned to print by the persevering Silver Spring, MD label Cuneiform; they’ve done the same with Heldon’s oeuvre and the vast majority of Pinhas’ productivity since, both solo and in collaboration.

Over the decades Pinhas has proven adept at creative partnerships, with his counterparts including countrymen John Livengood, Pascal Comelade, and Noël Akchote, Australian Oren Ambarchi, Detroit noise act Wolf Eyes, and Japan’s Tatsuya Yoshida and Masami Akita aka Merzbow, who join Pinhas on Process and Reality, Mu’s darker and heavier correlative, also out on Cuneiform (watch this space for a review). With Mu, the San Francisco-based guitarist Barry Cleveland expands the list.

While Pinhas is far from a household name, his reputation as a progressive-minded yet consistently edgy instrumentalist is secure. Initially quite taken by Robert Fripp’s numerous innovations both solo and as part of King Crimson, Heldon’s underground stature buffered against any punk-related fallout as the ’70s roared to its conclusion; esteemed as a forward-thinking experimentalist concerned with sonic textures over proficiency, avant-prog was his niche as he sparked interest from discerning fans of electronic music and even industrial (think Throbbing Gristle and Nurse with Wound rather than Wax Trax!).

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Graded on a Curve:
The Fiery Furnaces,
EP

Leave it to the playful brother and sister team who make up (made up? They’ve been on hiatus since 2011) The Fiery Furnaces to choose the title EP for a full LP. Their perky and sometimes difficult but always diversified sound will grab hold of you, primarily because they have a knack for writing impossibly catchy melodies that brother Matthew Friedberger always manages to lively up in miraculously captivating ways, via some very quirky instrumentation that is as constantly surprising as it is totally original. Meanwhile, sister Eleanor adds lovely but tough vocals and always interesting lyrics.

Most of the Fiery Furnace’s LPs are tough but rewarding listens, but 2005’s EP isn’t one of them. With two exceptions, the songs are lovely and straight-ahead pop tunes enlivened by brother Matthew’s always intriguing musical backdrops. “Here Comes the Summer,” for example, features, in addition to a piano, one very distorted guitar, as well as a blurting something or other—it could just be some gadget to further distort the guitar—and will thrill you with its loveliness. The similarly captivating “Evergreen” is one of the most deliriously delightful songs I’ve heard in a while, thanks to Eleanor’s thrilling vocals, some great piano, one unholy cool distorted guitar solo, and a melody that is guaranteed to win you over. Meanwhile, opener “Single Again” is all synthesizer blurt and momentum, in which Eleanor’s disturbing lyrics about being abused by a boyfriend/spouse offer a dark contrast to the song’s upbeat tempo.

“Tropical-Iceland” is all distortion directed towards a melody that is impossibly catchy, and the best song I’ve heard in a while. I don’t know how Matthew Friedberger is producing those noises: synthesizer or guitar or synthesized guitar, or who knows; all that really matters is they’re strange as tropical Iceland itself. Meanwhile, “Duffer St. George” offers a similarly confounding array of instrumentation, and starts off as a pop tune before it goes hard rock on your ass, only to grow contemplative for a moment before Eleanor repeats, “Duffer St. George/And I don’t care/Duffer St. George/And I don’t… care” to the accompaniment of woodwinds.

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TVD’s Press Play

Press Play is our Monday recap of the new and FREE tracks received last week to inform the next trip to your local indie record store.

Owls of the Swamp – Start All Over
The Deltahorse – Call It A Day
Dark Mean – Settle Down
Crushed Out – Skinny Dippin’
The White Raven – Rose
Allen Clapp – Friend Collector
The Burgeoning – Beautiful Rampage

TVD SINGLE OF THE WEEK:
Blue House – John The Unready

Fiona Soe Paing – Heartbeat
Wingtip – Rewind feat. Sophie Strauss
Shallou x RKCB – Slow
Richie Quake – Hesitate
Big Gigantic – The Little Things (Kasbo remix)
K V A S I R – First Throws
GOTTA – DANCE (I’m Gonna Put My Shoes On)
Marshmello – Alone (Jessica Audiffred Remix)

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