Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

Bob and Martha,
The TVD First Date

“My home was filled with classical Indian Carnatic tunes growing up; my mom would cook curry and sing along passionately.”

“I love-hated it because while I barely understood the words, the intonation was catchy and mesmerizing and invaded my mind at a very young age, filling me with meditative mantras. But being a typical little girl, the first tape I bought was the Spice Girls’ Spice. I knew every word of every song because I looked up the lyrics on some Geocities website and printed them out and I really really really wanna zig-a-zig ahh.

Middle school was a great time for music—No Doubt, Snoop Dogg, Weezer, TLC—pop music was and still is a great inspiration to me. I love music that is accessible and catchy and I try to pump some of these pop vibes into my own Bob and Martha melodies.

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Graded on a Curve: Robbie Williams, Intensive Care

What do you do when you’ve spent your lonely teen years idolizing Elton John, loving Elton John, ADORING Elton John, only to wake up one day to realize you’re 56 years old and need a substitute, a new Elton John in your life, to help see you through the long banal days and long lonely nights? Why you turn to Robbie Williams, of course. Williams is England’s best stab at providing us with a latter-day Captain Fantastic—to wit, a prolific hit machine who writes catchy songs and gets no respect from the right people, but is beloved by millions.

I fell in love with Williams the first time I heard “Angels.” It’s as close as any human has ever come to writing a new “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” and I swooned and don’t care who knows it. Bigger than life and anthemic as all fuck, “Angels” is all swirling strings and crescendos over which Williams pours, depending on your point of view, saccharine or his very heart blood.

Williams has come a long way since the acrimonious end of his first (1990-95) tenure in the boy band Take That—indeed, he’s one of the best-selling artists of all time, topping the likes of Beyoncé, The Black Eyed Peas, and Joseph Stalin, another Take That alumnus. He’s partied with Oasis and lived, released 11 solo albums, and bared his bum for the cover of 2014’s Under the Radar Volume 1, unless that’s a stunt bum I’m looking at as I write this. And he seems like a nice bloke, which is quaint, although for all I know he’s no friendlier than Heinrich Himmler, yet another Take That alum.

If there’s one thing you have to hand Williams, it’s he knows how to make an entrance. Take 2005’s Intensive Care. He opens the catchy “Ghosts,” its inaugural track, with the lines, “Here I stand victorious/The only man who made you cum.” Top that, friend. It’s your standard lovelorn affair with a great chorus, over which Williams says things like “me and you” and “we could have made it.” The backing vocals are wonderful, the strings transcendental, and while Elton John is no ghost I can feel his aura hovering over this one. “Tripping” opens with some ska drums and is ska flavored and reminds me of The Police, a band I can only compare to rickets. Williams switches back and forth from his regular voice to a falsetto, and there’s a brief hip-hop interlude that only makes things worse. In short I don’t like “Tripping,” but then there are plenty of Elton John songs (especially that one about Lady Di kicking the royal bucket) I don’t like either.

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Con Brio,
The TVD First Date

“Born in the ’90s, I grew up listening to CDs. Though I was always aware of vinyl’s existence, it wasn’t quite as accessible to me as CDs were. However, as I grew older, I began to explore life and soon expanded into the understanding of their raw and intimate sound quality.”

“Brief snapshot, I was 18 to be exact. I had just concluded my first meeting with a musical offer that allowed me to put together a 7 piece band and develop a residency that would be called “The Soul Train Revival.” Immediately after, I took a bus down to Haight Street and walked into a record store called, Rooky Ricardo’s Records to do some setlist preparation. Everything I discovered in that store was “reviving” in itself. Records from artists like Donny Hathaway, Chic, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Marvin Gaye, Prince, and many others are where I parked my imagination through the in-store record player.

In conclusion, I walked out of there with more than a setlist and a free Stevie Wonder record (Talking Book) from the store owner. Thereafter, vinyl symbolized the timeless nature of music that resonated with me in an organic way.”

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Graded on a Curve:
Cream, 1966-1972

Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker are the trio collectively known as Cream. Extant for only a fraction of the ‘60s, they still managed a bountiful recorded legacy. This week USM adds to the recent resurgence of LP box sets by collecting all six entries from their first formation, two studio, two live, and two hybrids of both, onto 180gm vinyl, making the contents of 1966-1972 heavy in dual senses of the word.

Full disclosure: for this writer this one-stop-shop of the original UK supergroup’s half dozen albums holds very little appeal, seeing as everything represented herein was relatively easy to obtain on LP throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, inexpensively and in good condition; personally, there is simply no reason to upgrade. But considering the needs of younger classic rock obsessed vinyl lovers, this collection does handily amass nearly everything from a trio that proved very influential.

Over the years, Cream has been both overrated and unfairly maligned. For starters, this is a highly productive if uneven period in Clapton’s artistic trajectory. The guitarist was creatively budding; if no longer a stern blues-disciple hounded by notions of purity, he was decades away from his transformation into an ultra-bland elder statesman after years of Middle-of-the-Roadism.

Since his ascendency to the Mt. Rushmore of blues-rock string-slingers Clapton has always inspired a pocket of detractors, and while these lobes are amongst those ranking his output post-Derek and the Dominos/George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass as uninteresting or worse, his prime work has persisted in worthiness.

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Paul Bergmann,
The TVD First Date

“The first record on vinyl I remember listening to was Tattoo You by The Rolling Stones.”

“My mom, sister, and I used to pull out this box of clothes, dress up like rock stars, and dance on the couches in the living room. “Start Me Up” is the song that really got us going. One time two women walking on the street saw us through the window and smiled or laughed, and after that I was too embarrassed to ever do it again.

I’ve only started interacting with vinyl again recently. 2 years ago I put out my first record on vinyl through the supervision of my friend Jason Hiller. Jason, my drummer Laura Doolin, and I recorded 8 songs live onto a 4-track tape machine at Jason’s home studio, most of them first takes. The final product was a 12” all-analog vinyl played at 45RPM. The earnestness of that sound is what sold me on collecting and producing vinyl. I suddenly needed all of my favorite albums on vinyl.

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Graded on a Curve:
Van Morrison,
Astral Weeks

It is unfortunate that my only clear image of the great Van Morrison is at The Band’s Last Waltz, where the pudgy Morrison, resplendent in an awful brown pants suit speckled with sequins, ends a sublime version of “Caravan” with a series of ludicrous leg kicks, all of which are unintentionally hilarious. I always have to remind myself that Morrison—with his “little fireplug body” to quote Lester Bangs—is one of the Immortals, and that his 1968 album Astral Weeks is one of the best rock LPs ever recorded and certainly in my Top Ten, and this despite the fact that I don’t even like half of its eight songs.

Less an LP than a spiritual attempt to storm Heaven, Astral Weeks showed Van Morrison to be a seeker in search of some unreachable mystical plane—like John Coltrane, only playing a kind of jazz-folk hybrid instead of free jazz. His vocal phrasing speaks to this search; he repeats words, stuttering and stammering and scatting his way to a breakthrough to some otherworldly place, while the mostly jazz musicians behind him play ethereally lovely melodies that provide the perfect counterpoint to his quest. I will go out on a limb and say this is more than just Morrison’s masterpiece—it’s the most spiritual rock LP ever produced, and Morrison the visionary’s most perfect expression of his attempt to utter the unutterable.

Astral Weeks was Morrison’s second LP. Recorded in 1967 with a crew of jazzmen only one of whom he’d met or played with, he told them to more or less wing it, and they did, to remarkable effect. Not everybody liked this approach; “No prep, no meeting,” said double bassist Richard Davis, whose remarkable playing dominates the contributions of his fellow musicians. “He was remote from us, ’cause he came in and went into a booth… And that’s where he stayed, isolated in a booth. I don’t think he ever introduced himself to us, nor we to him…” The Velvet Underground’s John Cale—who was recording in an adjoining studio—echoed Davis’ comments about Morrison isolating himself from his fellow players, saying, “Morrison couldn’t work with anybody, so finally they just shut him in the studio by himself. He did all the songs with just an acoustic guitar, and later they overdubbed the rest of it around his tapes.” But this is untrue; Morrison WAS in a separate booth, but the other musicians were playing along in another room, all but the strings and horns that is, which were recorded after the songs had been recorded.

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Graded on a Curve: Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton

Singer-guitarist-banjoist Karen Dalton holds special significance for many discerning folk fans. A rare example of beauty captured without undue premeditation, she managed only two studio albums before passing in 1993. A song collector and interpreter of unique but captivating voice, her skills were deeply admired by Bob Dylan as she befriended folk scene luminaries Fred Neil, Tim Hardin, and the Holy Modal Rounders. Now through Peter Walker and Josh Rosenthal, her uncovered lyrics have been transformed by a wide range of female artistry. The magnificent Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton is out May 26th on LP/CD/digital through Tompkins Square.

All it takes is one listen to It’s So Hard to Tell Who’s Going to Love You the Best to absorb the prodigious talent that shaped it. Cut in ’69 for Capitol, due to Dalton’s difficulties with studio recording it reportedly had to be massaged into existence by producer Nick Venet. Akin to numerous folk counterparts, her main strength was live performance, but unlike many debuts, Dalton’s wasn’t hindered by the typical rookie issues.

It basically arrived too late in the folk cycle and surely received next to bupkis in promotion. Its reissue in ‘96 cemented her cult status for a younger generation, but for deep folk heads she was already justifiably legendary; a 12-string guitarist and banjo slinger (her photo made the cover of the Ode banjo catalog) with a memory full of ditties reaching back to her childhood in Oklahoma, she had pipes recalling Billie Holliday and a real aptitude for the blues.

Dalton was pretty far afield of the usual hootenanny stuff; for evidence see Cotton Eyed Joe (Live in Boulder 1962). However, she wasn’t as acquired a taste as has been claimed, and In My Own Time, her ’71 studio follow-up on Michael Lang’s Just Sunshine label, is a folk-rock gem. Reissued and still available through Light in the Attic), it finds her in the company of a crack band as she tackled diverse sources, amongst them George Jones, Holland-Dozier-Holland, and her friend Richard Manuel of The Band (Dalton’s often cited as the subject of The Basement Tapes’ “Katie’s Been Gone”).

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Eddie Gomez,
The TVD First Date

“When my dad gave me my first vinyl, it was a group I had never heard of. The first memory I have of the record is the smell, the way that it felt in my hands, and the weight. I just remember thinking, “I wonder how big the CD player is for this thing?” I honestly thought I was holding an adult Frisbee.”

“My dad takes the vinyl, takes it out of the sleeve, cleans it, and places it on a record player. It almost looked to be some kind of ritual, but I didn’t understand it at the time. Fast-forward years later when I’m coming across my first album (that I bought at a garage sale), Fugees’ The Score, I did the exact same thing—I took it out of the sleeve, I cleaned it, placed it on my dad’s old record player, and played it. I didn’t only fall in love with the music, I fell in love with the ritual.

A vinyl record feels so much more personal than anything else out there. It feels like your favorite book you can read over and over again, and as soon as someone notices the cover, it’s almost an instant conversation starter on an instant common ground.

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Graded on a Curve:
Circuit des Yeux,
In Plain Speech

Circuit des Yeux is Haley Fohr, a Windy City-based musician who swiped her moniker from the name of the nerve that powers the act of seeing. Early on Circuit des Yeux was the byproduct of Fohr alone, but a few years back that began to change. Her new album enlists five fellow Chicagoans in the intensification of her already potent vision. It’s out this week on CD, digital, and virgin vinyl housed in an old-school tip-on jacket through the auspices of Thrill Jockey.

Haley Fohr’s inaugural ripples of note came in 2007 via Cro Magnon, a fascinating and short-lived duo with her friend Katie Leming. They issued a 7-inch in ’08 on Bruit Direct Disques; crudely captured, its two a-side tracks land approximately halfway between discernible tunes and squall while the flip explored a longer drifting milieu.

Along with a comparatively down-to-earth live performance for radio station WFMU that’s available from the Free Music Archive, Cro Magnon’s slim discography contains the opening cut on the Die Stasi label’s ’08 compilation XXperiments, the outfit sharing space with Zola Jesus, Buckets of Bile, Luxury Prevention, and U.S. Girls.

The LP additionally gathered selections from Leming’s solo endeavor Bird and Fohr’s Circuit des Yeux, the side projects arising before Cro Magnon even made a recording. In the case of Fohr, her own oeuvre has eclipsed the duo by a wide margin, Circuit des Yeux continuing with ‘08s Symphone; pressed in an edition of 150 copies by De Stijl, it’s utterly scarce today.

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Torche’s Steve Brooks,
The TVD Interview

For over ten years, Miami, Florida’s Torche has been defying any rules and boundaries set by rock and metal norms. The band has crafted a truly unique, genre-defying sound, and if they have changed at all over the years, it’s been strictly on their own terms. Their latest release, Restarter, is a brilliant, artistic journey through a heavy soundscape, and will surely stand out as a top release this year.

We had a chance to sit down with singer/guitarist Steve Brooks before their show at DC9 in Washington, DC. It was a loose, interesting discussion, taking us through the ins and outs of Torche’s music, from writing to recording, and to which color vinyl to release it on. Steve also happened to be celebrating his 41st birthday, and being the same age, reminisced about Kiss, vinyl, and destroying our toys in our youth.

Restarter has been out for a month. Are you pleased with the feedback you’ve been getting on the album?

Yeah, more than pleased. You never know how anyone’s going to react to a record, so you just write a bunch of songs, record it, and you end up putting it out. It could be either good or bad reaction, it’s a crap shoot, but as long as we like what we’re doing, that’s all that matters. People are going to like or they’ll hate it, or they’re going to be a bit of both every time, so you can’t win. There’s no winning situation. It’s either, they’ll complain about one thing, and then you’ll do something that is kind of like what they wanted on the last record, but we didn’t necessarily do that.

You either grew too much or not enough.

Yeah, you either change too much, or didn’t change enough. It’s like, you know, we’re just gonna write a bunch of songs, and sometimes it’ll go on a seven-inch, and it won’t be as hyped up as it is on a record.

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