Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

TVD Radar: Big Star,
#1 Record and Radio City 180-gram vinyl reissues in stores 1/24

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Craft Recordings is excited to reissue Big Star’s acclaimed first two albums on 180-gram vinyl. Set for a January 24th release date and available for pre-order now, #1 Record and Radio City feature all-analog mastering by Jeff Powell at Memphis’ Take Out Vinyl, and also manufactured locally—in Big Star’s hometown—at Memphis Record Pressing.

Though they both failed to strike commercial success at the time of their releases, 1972’s #1 Record and 1974’s Radio City are now considered to be milestones in the history of rock by critics and musicians alike. Heavily influenced by the British Invasion, yet markedly original—with their jangly pop, driving guitars, sweet harmonies, and wistful melancholia—Big Star offered a distinctly new sound when they first emerged in the early ‘70s, and are counted among the founders of power pop—a genre which wouldn’t truly take off until later in the decade. Nevertheless, Big Star would become an underground favorite, influencing some the biggest alt-rock artists of the ’80s, ’90s and beyond, including R.E.M., Teenage Fanclub, Wilco, and The Replacements (who famously penned the song “Alex Chilton” as an ode to the band’s frontman).

The Memphis band was formed in 1971 by singer/songwriters Alex Chilton (1950-2010) and Chris Bell (1951-1978), drummer Jody Stephens (b. 1952) and bassist Andy Hummel (1951-2010). Chilton and Bell drew on the Lennon/McCartney style of collaborative songwriting for their aptly titled debut, #1 Record. Working with Ardent Records’ founder and engineer John Fry, Chilton laid down guitar and vocal tracks—often in one take, while Bell added polish with overdubs and harmonies to songs like “The Ballad of El Goodo,” “Thirteen,” and “In The Street.” #1 Record was released to wide critical acclaim, yet distribution issues severely limited the album’s availability in stores. It would sell fewer than 10,000 copies.

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Graded on a Curve: Mattias Uneback,
Voyage Beneath the Sea

As the second decade of the 21st century winds to a close and for a handful of perfectly sound reasons, Exotica music isn’t exactly a thriving contemporary concern. However, the form has persevered as a point of historical interest, with a select few even able to conjure up fresh material that’s inextricably inspired by the style’s moods and climes. Right now, it’s doubtful anybody’s doing it better than sharp-dressing Swede Mattias Uneback; he’s had substantial time to hone his skills as part of The Test Pilots and more germane to the genre in Ìxtahuele, but with Voyage Beneath the Sea, he’s debuting as a leader, and per the title, the LP is an underwater delight. It’s out now on Subliminal Sounds.

When I say that Exotica has persevered historically into the present, I’m thinking specifically of the Numero Group label’s Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights, a multi-disc various artist retrospective deep dive into the style from last year, and additionally Subliminal Sounds’ own Pacific Paradise, which threw a spotlight onto the work of a single artist, the obscure bandleader Paul Page.

The emphasis on blissful states of being and temperate locales elevates those releases to a standard far above that of the associated genre of Cocktail Lounge. Thankfully, this extends to the Exotica impulse as manifested in the recent past by Ìxtahuele (the band’s last album Call of the Islands came out in 2016) and in the here and now by Uneback.

While surely conscious of the imagery and atmosphere that surrounds Exotica, with Voyage Beneath the Sea’s sleeve design radiating like an album rescued from a box moldering in a corner of a dimly lit antique shop (a look it shares with Page’s collection), Uneback is considerably more than some dude sporting a thrift store ascot and guzzling from a pitcher of poorly mixed martinis.

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TVD Radar: Marshall Crenshaw, Miracle of Science reissue in stores 1/17, kicks off vinyl reissue series

VIA PRESS RELEASE | “I love it that phonograph records are popular again,” enthuses Marshall Crenshaw. “They were consigned to oblivion by the music business back when I was recording for Razor & Tie, but now they’re back!”

The artist recently regained ownership of the five acclaimed albums he released on the Razor & Tie label between 1994 and 2003, and plans to issue revised editions of those efforts, on vinyl and on all digital platforms, beginning with his 1996 release Miracle of Science, due on January 17, 2020 on Crenshaw’s own Shiny-Tone label (distributed through Megaforce). Ultimately, the new reissue series will encompass three much-loved studio albums—Miracle of Science, 1999’s #447 and 2003’s What’s in the Bag?—plus 1994’s live My Truck Is My Home and 1998’s early demos collection The 9 Volt Years. Each album will include two newly recorded, previously unreleased tracks, which will appear on a bonus 7″ single on the vinyl editions and as bonus tracks on the CD and digital versions.

Miracle of Science was a turning point for me,” Crenshaw recalls. “I had voluntarily taken myself out of the major-label world. ADAT machines had just come out, so I bought a couple of those and a few other pieces of gear, and now suddenly I could make records at home if I felt like it. That took me back to my roots, you might say; I did about half the album at home by myself. And the other people that played on the record, I still get such a huge kick out of hearing what they did, particularly on the tracks that I recorded at Alex the Great studios in Nashville. There’s a lot of spirit in the music, a lot of fire. The playing is loose and wild—a much different approach from what you hear on my major-label records, and a real breakthrough, for my money.

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Graded on a Curve:
J. Graves,
Marathon

On the debut album by Portland, OR’s J. Graves, it’s Jessa Graves who writes the songs, sings them and plays the guitar, while the bass is handled by Barret Stolte and the drums by Dave Yeager. J. Graves is indeed a band, though the choice of moniker drives home the namesake’s input and sheer commitment. The style can be accurately tagged as a post-Riot Grrl state of affairs, but with strength of songwriting and emotional range that validates the comparisons to Sleater-Kinney and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Another way of putting it is that Marathon isn’t always raging; far from it actually, but the LP is consistently heartfelt, which brings us back to the matter of commitment. The album, self-released, is out now.

Jessa Graves’ story includes a prior outfit, Hellokopter, who worked hard and made progress and just at the brink of a major breakthrough and reward, fell apart as bands often do. If a not uncommon occurrence, the fallout from this situation can still be devastating to those involved, which is exactly what happened with Graves; the result was that she didn’t play, write songs or sing for three years.

But in 2016 she wrote “Leap Year,” which after three more years is one of Marathon’s ten selections. The trajectory from that initial song to this finished album wasn’t easy, however. There were serious health issues in 2017, with the chest x-ray adorning the record’s cover deriving from that very situation. Those difficulties necessitated major life changes, as she quit smoking and in 2018, ran a marathon.

Hence the record’s title, though there is a deeper significance; in an article in the Portland-focused website Vortex, Graves described the completion of this album as her second marathon. And there is an additional layered meaning, as the same article refers to the video she made for the record’s Kickstarter where she observed how the x-ray showed her insides and then added that “my music is everything that is inside of me.”

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TVD Live Shots: John 5 and The Creatures with Reverend Jack and Jared James Nichols at Voltage Lounge, 11/22

PHILADELPHIA, PA | Philadelphia’s Voltage Lounge is a shoebox of a club tucked away in an old industrial area north of Chinatown and Old City.  On November 22, we packed it in, nearly filled to the literal rafters, to see guitarist John 5 with his band The Creatures (Ian Ross on bass and Logan Miles Nix on drums),  Kentucky’s Reverend Jack, and Wisconsin’s Jared James Nichols were along for support and it was one hell of a good time.

Where do I begin? John 5 may be most well-known as a member of Rob Zombie’s band and he’s also played with Marilyn Manson.  Because of this, I had thought of him primarily as a metal guitarist; however, that is not accurate.  A glance at the guitar stand on stage should have been my clue as it included a banjo and not just one but two (!) mandolins. Throughout the night the songs veered from metal to country to even a little funk. John 5 is delightfully versatile and talented; he cannot be lumped into a single category.

It’s such a treat to watch especially since he does it all with a great sense of fun. The cramped stage played home to several flatscreens that played bits from horror films and classic monster movies, and John 5 himself takes the stage in full face makeup and mad scientist costume. I love a good freakshow (see my affection for bands like Avatar and guitarist Buckethead) and John 5 delivers. It seems a bit incongruent to hear a country influenced song like “Cactus Flower,” from his latest release Invasion, while seeing Godzilla march across the TV screens, but it worked.  It all works.

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TVD Radar: Laura
Nyro, More Than A New Discovery violet vinyl reissue in stores, 1/10

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Seldom has the title of a debut album been more apt than the one that graced Laura Nyro’s 1967 release, More Than a New Discovery.

This was not the mere first foray of a budding talent. Instead, More Than a New Discovery introduced a fully-realized, remarkably mature (at the age of 19) singer-songwriter whose singular fusion of pop, jazz, R&B, soul, Broadway, and folk sounds created some of the most beloved songs in modern popular music. Now, Real Gone Music and Second Disc Records are proud to reissue, for the first time ever on vinyl (and in homage to Laura’s favorite color), More Than a New Discovery in a limited violet vinyl edition limited to 1250 copies. Which, ordinarily, would be news enough!

But there’s more to the story. First of all, More Than a New Discovery, originally released on Verve Folkways in 1967, premiered the songs that Barbra Streisand, Blood Sweat and Tears, and The 5th Dimension would all take up the charts, including “Stoney End,” “And When I Die,” “Blowin’ Away,” and perhaps the most famous song Nyro ever wrote, “Wedding Bell Blues.”

But both the Verve Forecast and, later, Columbia labels reissued this record as The First Songs with new artwork, a different song order and added reverb. This limited edition restores the original cover art and album sequence, and, even better, offers the incredibly rare, dedicated mono mix according to Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, Laura’s preferred mode of audio reproduction’ from the very first version of the album as remastered from the original tapes by Vic Anesini at Battery Studios, with lacquer cutting by Clint Holley at Well Made Music. And, we have added an insert featuring photos and notes by The Second Disc’s Joe Marchese that place the record in context of Nyro’s remarkable career.

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Graded on a Curve:
Burt Bacharach,
Reach Out

Burt Bacharach is an evil man. Oh, I know the King of Smooth is a musical legend, and has undergone a renaissance of late–he’s collaborated with the likes of Elvis Costello, Adele, and Sheryl Crow, and even performed at the Glastonbury Festival in 2015. Bacharach chic is the order of the day, and who am I to question the likes of Elvis Costello?

But Bacharach–with the help of my own mother no less–laid waste to my tender years. She liked to pop the 8-track version of this instrumental 1967 monstrosity into its slot in the living room stereo and go about her housework. No skin off the asses of we kids, you’d think; we were safely out of its blast zone, pledging allegiance to the flag.

Unfortunately, there were those days when we were home with the flu, chicken pox, malaria, necrotizing fasciitis, or traumatic limb amputation. And while we lay helplessly supine on the living room sofa mom would sadistically play it over and over again, torturing us like involuntary participants in a sinister medical experiment. Like General George S. Patton she viewed all forms of physical or mental illness as malingering, and considered Reach Out a harsh but appropriate punishment. And it worked; one day of nonstop listening and we would hasten back to school, rickets, appendicitis, or bubonic plague notwithstanding.

We all know these songs; they stick with you like bubblegum beneath an elementary school desk. They’re part of our collective unconscious, imprinted in our DNA, and we’re destined to carry them across the River Styx into the underworld. Many of them were written in collaboration with co-conspirator and fellow traveler Hal David and sung by Dionne Warwick, and it’s the Warwick versions we all love. Is there anyone who doesn’t know her sublimely soulless versions of “Alfie,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Reach Out for Me,” “Walk on By,” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” by heart?

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Happy Thanksgiving!

We’ve closed up the shop for the Thanksgiving holiday. While we’re away, why not fire up our free Record Store Locator app and visit one of your local indie record stores on Black Friday or Small Business Saturday?

Perhaps there’s an interview, review, or feature you might have missed? Catch up and we’ll see you back here on Monday, 12/2.

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TVD Radar: Gorillaz: Reject False Icons in cinemas 12/16

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Gorillaz today announce a brand new feature documentary film titled Gorillaz: Reject False Icons, directed by Denholm Hewlett and available in cinemas worldwide for one night only on December 16th.

Released in partnership with Gorillaz Productions, Eleven, Trafalgar Releasing and Warner Music Entertainment, Gorillaz: Reject False Icons documents life in the studio with Gorillaz co-founders Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett; producers The Twilite Tone of D /\ P, Remi Kabaka and James Ford; as well as stellar roll call of featured artists including Vince Staples, Jean-Michel Jarre, De La Soul, DRAM, Pusha T, Peven Everett, Little Simz, Jamie Principle, Yasiin Bey, Bootie Brown, Cheick Tidiane Seck, Graham Coxon, Pauline Black, Zebra Katz, Danny Brown, Ben Mendelson, Kelela, Jehnny Beth, Hypnotic Brass, Junior Dan, Shaun Ryder, Mavis Staples, Sidiki Diabete, and Noel Gallagher.

In his debut feature, director Denholm Hewlett followed the band’s every move for three years, covering the making of two critically acclaimed albums, Humanz and The Now Now, as well as the band’s most ambitious world tour to date encompassing dates across Europe, North America, South America, and Mexico, bookended by its own Demon Dayz Festivals in the UK and US. The result is the first ever all-access immersive journey into the world of Gorillaz and its extended family – featuring never-seen footage, where the virtual meets the real – to capture the wondrous chaos of life under the watchful eye of Murdoc Niccals (bass), Noodle (guitar), Russel Hobbs (drums), and 2D (vocals).

Gorillaz: Reject False Icons will be screened in cinemas around the world on December 16th 2019. Tickets will be on sale on November 27th from rejectfalseicons.com where fans can find the most up-to-date information regarding participating theatres.

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Needle Drop: Sarah J’Vine, Embracing Eternity Within

Brisbane Australia-based Sarah J’Vine’s life changed drastically after a near death experience, activating psychic gifts which led her to become a medium. But Sarah could not only witness higher realms and glean spiritual insights, she could hear songs—personalized melodies and messages that she translated for her clients.

Having now used music as a healing modality for years, J’Vine decided to develop these light language readings into broader sonic compositions and has now released a gorgeous collection of soaring meditations entitled Embracing Eternity Within. “My intent is to be a conduit for that authentic connection to spirit, so one can fall madly in love with their inner and outer worlds, seen and unseen,” Sarah reflects. “This is a journey that will bring the listener to the higher vibrations, cultivating a true spiritual connection within themselves.”

The album is awash with delicate ambience and powerful vocals, not unlike the early work of Enya or the modern lullabies of Lisa Gerrard. Indeed, it does create a warm, lulling state which allows entrance into the deeper inner realms of the subconscious, encouraging one to surrender to the sounds of light.

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Grounded and in contact: Roan Yellowthorn’s melancholy “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”

Jackie McLean knows how to make a cover—and a Christmas song—her own. Her most recent holiday single, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” arrived in stores on November 15, with a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River” released earlier this month.

“River” might seem like a strange choice for a holiday single. While Christmas is mentioned, it’s not explicitly a Christmas song—but that’s just what McLean likes about it. “When I’m choosing something to sing,” she says, “I try to pick something that resonates with me and my emotional landscape the most. And for me, I think most of the time I do see kind of the more melancholy side of things.”

That includes Christmas. The holiday season can highlight feelings of loneliness and isolation just as easily as it can bring people together. Putting those conflicted feelings to music can be cathartic for McLean, the voice of indie-rock outfit Roan Yellowthorn. “If I’m able to sing a sad song that taps into the bluer side, it makes me feel more aligned, in a weird way.”

Her approach to the seminal “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” emphasizes the same sense of sadness. “It definitely is a traditional Christmas song,” she says, but “devastatingly sad… I imagine it being sung by somebody who wants to return to a place that doesn’t exist anymore, so we tried to sort of do it in that spirit.” The single is a piano-vocal collaboration with keyboardist Ty Bailey, who’s usually on tour with Katy Perry. “I loved working with him,” McLean says. “I just told him I had this idea of making the song into a weird, Twin Peaks kind of trippy, sad, weird moment and he just knew exactly how to give it that sound.”

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TVD Radar: The Marshall Tucker Band, New Year’s In New Orleans: Roll Up ’78 And Light Up ’79 2-LP in stores 11/29

VIA PRESS RELEASE | When The Marshall Tucker Band played their 12/31/78 show at The Warehouse in New Orleans, it was simulcast on over 150 radio stations nationwide, making it the most widely-heard rock concert of its time. Now, Ramblin’ Records is releasing the concert on gatefold double LP and CD for the first time. The album will first be available at independent record stores only on November 29 as a “RSD First” in conjunction with Record Store Day’s Black Friday event. It will then be available online and everywhere else in late January.

In 1978, the Marshall Tucker Band (Tommy Caldwell, Toy Caldwell, Jerry Eubanks, Doug Gray, George McCorkle, and Paul Riddle) were one of the biggest groups around and one of the best live acts in the business having toured non-stop for years supporting a string of six gold and platinum records with huge hits like “Heard It In A Love Song” and “Can’t You See.” In a live review of their Madison Square Garden show just six weeks prior, the New York Times’ Robert Palmer wrote, “The Marshall Tucker Band does not play conventional southern rock, although by now the group is successful enough to be setting conventions of its own…So, unlike many southern bands, which tend to get locked into narrow blues grooves, the Marshall Tucker Band soars.

Most of the tunes turn into more or less extended jams led by Toy Caldwell, whose lead guitar work builds from short, cleanly articulated phrases into high note barrages with a sure sense of pacing. Thursday night’s show was crisp and energetic. It was the kind of show the band used to give at the Palladium or in Central Park…the music worked handsomely, and the crowd was on its feet through most of the show. The Marshall Tucker Band has managed to become a major group without compromising its original stylistic integrity and without resorting to theatrical staging or other tricks of the trade.” (11/12/1978)

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Needle Drop: Albon,
“Call Me Up”

LA-based singer-songwriter Albon creates tender jangle pop, modern in its approach, yet steeped in nostalgia.

With motifs dealing with loss, exploration, and a general sense of wanderlust, his compositions are smart and familiar yet slightly left-of-center, landing somewhere between the Fleet Foxes and golden-era Beach Boys.

His debut single “Call Me Up” is flush with promise, revealing a talented and tender artist who is more than willing to expose his hopes and fears on record. Hold tight for the bright, expansive chorus which owes as much to Brooklyn psych pop as it does to vintage Disney show tunes.

“Call Me Up” is an excellent entry into Albon’s insular world, lifted from the wily 6-song EP, “Dream Weaver//Bee Keeper,” which arrives in stores January 31st.

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Graded on a Curve:
Blue Öyster Cult,
Secret Treaties

So what do we have here? An album by a band that purports to be heavy metal but isn’t, lyrics by Patti Smith, famed rock crit Richard Meltzer and producer/manager/svengali Sandy Perlman, songs about a famous Nazi jet, cagey cretins, a guy who gets high on human eyeballs, dominance & submission and other everyday topics, and a vocalist/guitarist so cool the Minuteman named dropped him in a song. No wonder a Melody Maker critics’ poll declared it “the Top Rock Album of All Time.” Not band for a bunch of Long Island boys.

BOC began their career as Soft White Underbelly, changed their name to Oaxaca and then to the Stalk-Forrest Group before being signed to Columbia Records by Clive Davis. Pearlman saw BOC as America’s answer to Black Sabbath, which was kinda like declaring the Doobie Brothers America’s answer to Led Zeppelin. A lot of my badass pig farmer pals thought BOC were psychopomps sent to guide them to the underworld; in reality they were the kinds of well-mannered boys who would carry granny’s grocery bags up the stairs. Their “career of evil” most likely consisted of forgetting to pay a couple of parking tickets.

Metal these guys ain’t. Sabbath’s “Iron Man” crushes anything BOC ever recorded, Tokyo menace “Godzilla” (BOC’s least representative tune) aside. Secret Treaties’s less GTO than finely tuned sports car. It places a premium on speed and turning power. The LP’s sound is streamlined and clean, and there’s no muffler noise. It wouldn’t be stretching a comparison too far to say BOC have more in common with Bon Jovi.

No surprise, then, that my least favorite tune on the album is the lumbering “Subhuman.” That said, the lyrics are tres cool: “Left to die by two good friends” recaps their debut’s “Then Came the Last Days of May,” in which three “three good buddies” get offed in a dope burn. Better is the slow-paced “Astronomy,” which works thanks to Allen Lanier’s piano and a Van Halen-like “Hey! Hey! Hey!” chorus. Pearlman’s lyrics (sample couplet “In hellish glare and inference/The other one’s a duplicate”) don’t make a lick of sense to me, but then again, T.S. Eliot I ain’t.

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TVD Premiere:
Used Cassettes,
“It’s My Night”

South Korea-based, beach jangle quartet Used Cassettes have remained consistent in their output of beautiful and bittersweet rock ‘n’ roll. But after nearly ten years and five albums and grinding in Seoul, the winds of life sent the members in separate directions and the band went on hiatus.

The bassist set off and built a beach hut in Sri Lanka, the lead guitarist got married and moved back to Vancouver, and the other two, well, no one’s quite sure what happened to them. But before they embarked on a “hiatus,” they laid down their final and most poignant record to date, the self-titled Used Cassettes.

We’re happy to premiere the album’s single, “It’s My Night,” which may very well be the last offering from this wonderful group. Sounding a bit like a groovy hybrid of Beachwood Sparks and Nirvana, the song manages to be both languid and soothing—while rocking hard. It’s also deliberately self-aware, shedding light on the often egotistical tendencies of young men who live wily lives, unhinged from the responsibilities of adulthood.

The band shares, “We often see our own actions as more just, more important than those around us. ‘It’s My Night’ takes this premise and softens its edges with catchy melodies and tight time changes, reflecting some of the wry humor in our often myopic lives.”

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