Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Try the Pie, Rest

Bean Kaloni Tupou is perhaps best known for singing and playing in the San Jose, CA four-piece Sourpatch, but as Try the Pie she additionally offers solo artistry of considerable acumen and growing prominence. Her most recent work in this mode emerged this past April, but those wishing to explore Try the Pie’s beginnings are graced with good luck for the venture’s earliest recordings have been given a fresh vinyl pressing courtesy of the Happy Happy Birthday To Me label. Featuring 13 of Tupou’s songs delivered up close and very personal through guitar and voice, Rest is available now.

Together with her contribution to the San Jose-based Think and Die Thinking Collective, Bean Tupou’s credits include Crabapple, Salt Flat, and Plume, but thus far her highest profile undertaking has been Sourpatch, a sadly defunct outfit (their Bandcamp refers to them in the past tense, anyway) having specialized in a dead-solid expansion of a particular wrinkle of the early ‘90s indie aesthetic.

Specifically, think of the Slumberland and SpinArt enterprises. Diversity and focus worked in Sourpatch’s favor, the group actually offering a broader sound than some of their influences but not so wide-ranging that 2010’s Crushin’ and ‘12’s Stagger & Fade (both released by Happy Happy Birthday To Me) connect like samplers of a bygone era.

Sourpatch also wielded a punkish energy at times somewhat reminiscent of certain chapters in the tale of K Records. By extension they were occasionally described as twee punk, though to these ears this observation continues to seem a little off-target; Sourpatch weren’t childlike, instead proffering guitar pop of a cosmopolitan but still fairly snarly bent.

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TVD Video Premiere: Jemima Surrender, “Hammer and Peg”

“The video was made pretty organically (that means we didn’t have any ideas, hah!) but I knew I wanted the hammer and peg toy in it, although I normally don’t like literal videos.”

“The hammer and peg imagery is borrowed and twisted from the sweet little book Naive. Super by Erlend Loe. The main character uses it to find peace, ‘exquisite monotony,’ in the song though it’s more a metaphor for feeling beaten by the monotony of relationships and a constant need for validation.

That monotony is easy and safe, but empty at the same time. The song isn’t all doom and gloom though, it’s self-empowering, which is probably why the video is colourful with a lot of me in it! The cat decided she wanted to be in it so we didn’t really have a choice, otherwise she wees on our stuff.”
Millie Phipps

Bristol-based trio Jemima Surrender channels ’90s alt-rock in quirky video for “Hammer & Peg.”

We have the pleasure of premiering the video off the band’s debut, The Uninhabited World, which oozes casual charm and indie sensibility. The stark punk approach to their instrumentation enhances the subtle visual flow, while lead singer Millie Phipps’ cerebral lyricism comes to life when sung directly into the camera.

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Graded on a Curve:
Billy Bragg & Wilco,
Mermaid Avenue

Of all the musical collaborations that come to mind, none is as both as lovely and as rambunctious as Mermaid Avenue, the album Billy Bragg and Wilco recorded of music they set to the lyrics of the greatest folkie of them all, Woody Guthrie. It never fails to move me, or do a silly dance as Jeff Tweedy sings in the great “Hoodoo Voodoo.” Kindred spirits, Bragg and Wilco achieve an amazing feat; they provide ingenious musical settings for songs that Guthrie, who’d written the lyrics, was too sick to write music for due to the physical impairments of Huntington’s Disease. It’s truly a masterpiece this one, and never fails to remind me of E.M. Cioran’s comment that “What is not heartrending is superfluous, at least in music.”

It was Nora Guthrie, Woody’s daughter, who offered the lyrics to radical folk singer Billy Bragg, who went to Wilco about recording an album. The sessions ended up being stormy; Wilco’s Jay Bennett felt that Bragg’s musical settings were too ornate, and there was a falling out. Bennett called Bragg about re-recording some of Bragg’s recordings, to which the Englishman replied, “”You make your record, and I’ll make mine, fucker.” But things were finally settled, and I’m of the opinion that Bennett overreacted; the songs sound all of a piece, like a latter-day Basement Tapes.

From the wild opener, “Walt Whitman’s Niece,” a raucous and harmonica-fueled tune featuring group vocals and a spoken section by Bragg about a run-in with a woman who claimed to be Walt Whitman’s niece to the sublimely beautiful “California Stars,” the album will make you dizzy with joy from the start. “California Stars” boasts an ethereal melody that will make you swoon, some lovely piano and guitar, and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy on vocals. He wants to make lay his head on a bed of California stars, and violinist Eliza Carthy helps provide the beautiful sound that makes the song altogether irresistible. That and Jay Bennett’s piano, and lots of guitars. One of my favorite songs of all time, this one.

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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.

The Frisbys – Give In To The Dark
Suntrodden – Sunrise To Sunset
Drew Gibson – Bettie-Jane
E T E R N A L S – Out Of Context
Violent Mae – In The Sun
OVERLAKE – Travelogue
Broken Gold – Turning Blue
Germany Germany – October
Shapes On Tape – Still Believe in Love
Monogem – Wait And See (Adam Johan Remix)

Donna Missal – Hotline Bling

Moa Holmsten – Tougher Than The Rest
Bobby Shoebotham – Somebody Else’s Girl
Postcards From Jeff – Goddess Of The Sun
The Drama State – Pool House Envy (feat. AJ Perdomo)
Shannon and the Clams – It’s Too Late
The Black Ships – Dead Empires
Shinobi Ninja – Bang Bang
Grave Babies – Something Awful
Strange & Primitive – Highwayman

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Josh Rosenthal’s The Record Store of the Mind: A Consideration

Before founding and operating his consistently rewarding label, Josh Rosenthal worked in the big-time music industry. Prior to that he was in college radio and even earlier was just a budding music junkie, seeds planted in childhood gradually blossoming into Tompkins Square Records. Along the way he’s naturally amassed some stories, viewpoints and favorites, and some of them are corralled in his new book The Record Store of the Mind. Folks with sizable collections should find it a welcome companion, and those just getting the fever will likely have their horizons broadened and want lists substantially increased.

A little over halfway through The Record Store of the Mind, in a chapter simply titled “Jazz,” Josh Rosenthal bluntly states a personal requirement regarding the particular section’s topic; even in traditional jazz, or “inside” stuff to borrow the parlance of the music, a discernible “outside” element still needs to be present or the end result will fail to grab his interest.

Non-jazz buffs might not get it; for one thing, the conventional (received) wisdom is that above all else jazz must “swing.” But Rosenthal’s prerequisite makes total sense and is a fairly common barometer; for instance, this writer adores the titanic outside piano of Cecil Taylor and also loves the inside with undercurrents of out mode of Bill Evans but has hardly ever been swayed by the (at least to these ears) firmly inside style of Oscar Peterson.

Of course, the parameters of “out” will vary by listener; is it enough to experiment, or does there need to be an aspect of friction at play? And like, what’s your take on Ahmad Jamal? But I digress, as digressing is a foible that afflicts music nuts and yes indeed, music writers as well. However, it bears noting that Rosenthal keeps close to the various points at hand throughout his collection.

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Brenna Whitaker,
The TVD First Date

“I go to a lot of estate sales as I’m intrigued by anything with a little dust on it.”

“Having bought and listened to records since I was a teenager, I’m huge fan of vinyl. I find as an adult now (oh god), I’m most creative working while listening to creepy, slightly sharp (or flat) horn solos from the ’40s or jazz noire compilations from all the fabulous European companies that are helping to keep vinyl alive.

My current record player was bought at the Melrose Flea market in Hollywood and is a Vintage 1972 SE -990 Panasonic that came with matching speakers. It’s been a total gem and an integral part of me discovering myself in the City of Angels. There is nothing more relaxing than cooking or hanging out with my dogs, Louis Armstrong, and Pearl Bailey with lit candles and listening to my favorite pianist, Vince Guaraldi. My most favorite records lately have come from a website called Fantastic Voyage. They have all the rarities that inspire and fuel me to do what I do in life.

Growing up in Kansas City as a kid, I did a lot of professional theater and my mom and dad would drive me to do 2PM matinée and 8PM performances all the time. In the car we listened to this fabulous radio station called Fish Fry Friday that basically changed my life. Lyrically the way songs told stories in the ’50s and ’60s has really stuck with me.

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Graded on a Curve:
Scott Fagan,
South Atlantic Blues

Scott Fagan’s tale holds a circuitous course of impressive connections, valiant attempts, and unfortunate misses, but it’d be anticlimactic without a worthwhile record in the equation; the fresh reissue of South Atlantic Blues helps provide enduring relevance to the narrative. Originally released by Atco in 1968 to utter consumer neglect, it’s a rediscovery requiring neither qualifications nor special pleading, for nobody else cooked up a progressive stew of folk, pop, and soul quite like this one. It’s out now through Saint Cecilia Knows, the first 1,000 hand numbered copies of the LP featuring 180gm vinyl and a heavy-duty tip-on jacket exclusively reproducing Jasper Johns’ lithograph “Scott Fagan Record.”

Scott Fagan’s father was a musician (reportedly a saxophonist and singer) who kept company with such heavyweights as Dizzy Gillespie and Lester Young, while his dancer mother raised him in an art colony on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas. As a teen Fagan played rock ‘n’ roll in an act christened The Urchins and in the mid-‘60s stowed away for Florida, eventually making his way to New York where he immediately scored an in-person audition with Brill Building songwriters Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman.

Consequently, Fagan was signed to Pomshu Productions, receiving two years of mentoring from the duo as he and Pomus wrote “I’m Gonna Cry Till My Tears Run Dry,” a hit for Irma Thomas later waxed by Linda Ronstadt. Pomshu additionally secured deals for Fagan, first with Columbia, where he cut an unreleased single, and then via Bert Berns’ Bang Records, the association producing ‘66’s “Give Love a Chance” b/w “Tutsie.”

The story takes a wild turn as Fagan almost became an Apple signing, South Atlantic Blues amongst the candidates to be the first non-Beatles-related album issued by the label (a distinction belonging to the self-titled debut of James Taylor, though the Modern Jazz Quartet’s Under the Jasmine Tree is documented as sharing the same release date in the UK and US.)

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The Darkness: In-store with TVD at Washington DC’s Som Records

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | As we noted last month, Last of Our Kind is the first album in three years for The Darkness. It’s hailed as one of their finest records yet, and a maturation of their sound. “It is the best rock album you will hear this year,” says singer Justin Hawkins. “It is the best rock album you will hear until next time The Darkness makes an album.” It’s difficult to argue for a more appropriate title; they don’t make rock bands like The Darkness anymore.

“We’ve always been a cult band,” bass guitarist Frankie Poullain tells TVD, but that’s quite an over-simplification (and he knows it). It’s been over a dozen years since Permission to Land blasted rock music out of its same-y, neo-garage rut. Its influence punched the genre in the face and reminded people, who were too young to remember, what it was like for rock to be a fun, profane, exhilarating spectacle. With Last of Our Kind, The Darkness again unleash tongue-in-cheek bombastic rock music that delivers in spades and (figurative, possibly literal) pyrotechnics.

In DC for a show just over the District line proper at the Fillmore Silver Spring (our coverage is here) The Darkness’ Dan Hawkins and Frankie Poullain reveal themselves to be—what else?—real record store denizens. And sure, we talked Thin Lizzy, but their touchstones are varied. Teenage Fanclub, Big Star, The Waterboys, My Bloody Valentine, and the Blue Nile are among some of the band referenced that might not come to mind immediately with the lads over a record rummage, but there you have it.

So, let’s go—we’re record shopping with The Darkness at Washington, DC’s Som Records.

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Graded on a Curve:
Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, Another Live

I’m of two minds when it comes to Todd Rundgren. Part of me hates him, and the other part of simply loathes him. Oh, I’m kidding. I really liked the Todd Rundgren who gave us 1972’s Something/ Anything?. It wasn’t until he formed the synth-heavy prog rock band Utopia that things got ugly. Ugly as in pompous, long-winded (a song off the band’s 1974 debut clocks in at 30:26), and philosophically empty-headed. He became the kind of guy who referred to Ra, the sun god, as a “holy synthesizer.” And speaking of Ra, Utopia’s 1977 LP, none other than Robert Christgau complained that, “The first side is bad, the second unspeakable.” And that’s before he really starts getting insulting.

That said, I have a horrible confession to make. I actually owned Utopia’s 1975 LP Another Live, which followed the band’s self-titled live debut. And not only did I own it, I played it, on my 8-track boom box, while painting houses in Gettysburg, PA in the bicentennial year 1976. It seems inexplicable to me now, given that I would soon despise them, but what I really liked, looking back, were the songs “Heavy Metal Kids” and “Just One Victory,” both of which appeared on Rundgren solo albums before Utopia got around to performing them. My brother and I even painted the legend “Heavy Metal Kids 1976” in silver glam paint on the stone windowsill of one of the houses we painted. I went back to Gettysburg not too long ago, in part to see if it was still there. It wasn’t. Some people just have no respect for history.

Anyway, I decided to gird my loins and listen to Another Live again, just to determine whether it sparked any nostalgic memories. And I’ll be damned, but the LP isn’t bad. Or not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. There are, admittedly, moments of sublime banality, combined with large amounts of futuristic brouhaha, but a few of the songs actually get out of their wheelchairs and dance, which is certainly more than I expected.

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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.

Lauren Marsh – Wildfire
The Retrospectives – Rolling Stone (Acoustic Version)
Sea Caves – Spanning the River
Wonky Tonk – Denmark
Gazebos – I Don’t Wanna Be Here
Stevie B Wolf – Nothing But A Name
Chris Storrow – Raised The Bar
Andrew Johnston – Take The Highway

Crowded House – Help Is Coming (with an introduction by Benedict Cumberbatch)

The Black Ships – Dead Empires
J Hacha De Zola – Strange
Scary Little Friends – In This Lifetime
Coldair – Denounce
Steed Lord X Sam Sparro – Night Games
Rex Riot – Tap Back
Dani Deahl – Cha Ching
NAT – Follow Me (Berger & Shaqiri Remix)
Dirt Nasty & Mickey Avalon – Top Down

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