Category Archives: The TVD Record Store Club

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, March 2018, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for March, 2018. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Tania Chen, John Cage: Electronic Music for Piano (Omnivore) The immediate draw, at least for those with a casual interest in Cage, will be the players; Thurston Moore brings his guitar, Flying Lizard and Eno cohort David Toop multitasks, experimental electronic composer Jon Leidecker contributes mobiles and mixer, and noted musician and composer Gino Robair produces. But it’s Chen who gets the deserved top billing. An esteemed interpreter of Cage (and many of his peers), this finds her tackling one of his most rarely performed scores (due to its cryptic, minimal instructions), and fans of experimental classical (and lovers of abstract noise) should be stoked. Cage’s (lack of) guidelines offer latitude most can’t handle, but Chen and crew embrace it. The results are gripping. A

Keiji Haino & SUMAC, American Dollar Bill – Keep Facing Sideways, You’re Too Hideous to Look at Face On (Thrill Jockey) Haino’s the avant-noise king of Japanese guitar and SUMAC’s comprised of ex-members of Baptists, Russian Circles, and ISIS, so one could be forgiven for assuming this collab is a start-to-finish exercise in aural brutality. To be sure, there are some hairy (but communicative) passages here, many of them extended, but hey, the title track (and what a title it is) opens with flute, and the reality is that both sides of this team-up deliver more than pummel and abrasion. Much more. Across four sides of vinyl, free-rock is in abundance, a mode familiar to Haino fans through Fushitsusha and Nazoranai, but SUMAC (and Nick Yacyshyn’s drum thunder especially) instills a distinct flavor. A

REISSUE PICKS: Milt Jackson & John Coltrane, Bags & Trane (ORG Music) I’ve covered this meeting of vibraphonist Jackson and sax giant Coltrane before, as part of Rhino’s The Atlantic Years in Mono box set, but this is the 2LP 180gm stereo version, back in stock after being OOP for two years. It’s not inexpensive, but for audiophiles, it’s an utterly rich dish. I’m generally a non-fan of the vibes, though Jackson is one of the big exceptions. He does solidify the expertly executed straight-ahead direction here, as pianist Hank Jones, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Connie Kay (Jackson’s cohort in the Modern Jazz Quartet) fill out the band. Trane’s in fine form. If I persist in ranking this set as a little less than top-tier, it’s largely due to the atmosphere of casualness. Of course, this brings its own appeal. A-

Cindy Lee, Act of Tenderness (W.25TH) Cindy Lee is the project of Patrick Flegel, formerly of the Canadian outfit Women, and like Malenkost, which was reissued by W.25TH last year, Act of Tenderness dates from late 2015; it was initially issued in an edition of 300 on the CCQSK label. Described as Flegel’s diva alter-ego, Cindy Lee plants a flag at the intersection of lo-fi, experimentation and ’60s Brill Building-ish pop, and the results are fascinatingly surreal. In my short review of Malenkost, I mentioned David Lynch, and this time W.25TH pinpoints Eraserhead. Last time out, the mentions of No Wave were validated, but on “Bonsai Garden” here, I’m getting more of an Industrial noise vibe. However, “Miracle of the Rose” comes off like first LP Velvets at their most extreme shorn down to a duo of Cale and Nico. Wowsers. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, March 2018, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for March, 2018. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Steve Barton, Tall Tales and Alibis (Sleepless) Barton is known mostly as a member of (the still active) San Fran New Wave-era guitar band Translator, but he’s cut a slew of solo efforts, and this 3CD set is his latest. The main snag with Translator was unevenness brought on by commercial concerns, but Barton is unshackled by such matters here. The original idea was to release three individual albums simultaneously, though the decision to issue them together was wise, as the contrasts are complimentary. Two of the three discs are truly solo and are mostly guitar focused; Star Tonight occasionally brings Ted Leo to mind, while parts of Shattered Light give off a pre-hobo Tom Waits vibe. Before I Get Too Young features a full band, it bests any of Translator’s ’80s (non-comp) LPs. A-

Trees Speak, S/T (Cinedelic) This 2LP debuts the psych project of Daniel Martin Diaz (ex-Blind Divine and Crystal Radio), who’s veteran accompaniment includes members of Black Sun Ensemble, Giant Sand, and Myrrors. Described as a sound laboratory as much as a band, there’s a definite experimental edge to the proceedings, but it comingles with an emphasis on rock, with a high quotient ’70s Germanic. It’s safe to say that fans of The Oh Sees will find much to enjoy here, but it’s also important to note that this doesn’t fit the garage punk scenario; Trees Speak also does its thing sans vocals. The first album is loaded with shorter tracks with elements of kosmische and even a little Meddle-era Floyd in the mix, and the second spreads a long multitiered piece across two sides. The packaging is magnificent. A-

REISSUE PICKS: V/A, Voyager Golden Record (Ozma) As a young blues fan, I was utterly chuffed to learn that this ambitious project of the Voyager Interstellar Record Committee (chaired by astronomer and educator Carl Sagan), launched on a tour of the solar system via the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts in 1977, included Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground.” These days, I’m far more struck by the gesture of goodwill in communication. Yes, it was assembled to, maybe, one day, be absorbed by possible lifeforms somewhere “out there,” but meanwhile, listening to its contents (which encompass so much more than music) in the here and now is a beautiful reminder that humankind is far more capable of decency and beauty than ugliness and atrocity. Let it give you a boost. A+

Sandra Bell, Net (Drawing Room) Bell’s discography stretches back to an ’84 cassette she made with fellow New Zealander Kim Blackburn, though she really caught the attention of those hungering for u-ground Kiwi sounds with ’91’s Dreams of Falling, which came out on tape through Xpressway and was cut with the contribution of Peter Jefferies. Net was its excellent ’95 follow-up, initially issued only on CD by the IMD label. Upon first listen, Bell’s voice and phrasing will likely conjure thoughts of Patti Smith, but overall, her work fits snuggly into the ’90s lo-fi/ noise milieu, with the important distinction that she’s a song-based artist, one as likely to connect with fans of early Cat Power as lovers of Dead C. This is a terrific vinylization made even better with an extra LP rounding up two of her period singles. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New
in Stores, February 2018, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for February, 2018. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: The Skull Defekts, S/T (Thrill Jockey) I’ll admit that I first got into The Skull Defekts due to the connection with Daniel Higgs, who’d been the singer and poetic fount for Baltimore’s Lungfish, a band I long loved, and who’d joined the Swedish band well after their formation. But in soaking up their pre-Higgs discography, the appeal widened, with The Skull Defekts’ work serving up another fine example of Swede u-ground rock (with connections to Anti Cimix, Cortex, Union Carbide Productions, and Kid Commando), and it continues here with Higgs’ departure and Mariam Wallentin stepping in. In a reflective explanatory piece written by member Joachim Nordwall, he observes that this is probably their most composed album, and I don’t disagree. But it’s still a superb finale. A-

Renata Zeiguer, Old Ghost (Northern Spy/Double Denim) Although this is vocalist, pianist, and violinist Zeiguer’s first full-length, she doesn’t lack experience; there was her self-released “Horizons” EP from back in 2013, and she’s spent time in the interim performing as Cantina and contributing to numerous projects, including Ava Luna, Twin Sister, Cassandra Jenkins, and Christopher Burke of Beach Fossils. But it goes back farther than that; influenced as a child by classical music and a little later by the Great American Songbook, there is a florid quality to much of her material that when combined with her vocal strengths, solidifies the mention of Kate Bush. But her love of The Beatles and tropicalia also shines through (adding welcome touches of strangeness0, and I dig the indie rock toughness throughout. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems (Craft) This set includes a bunch of pertinent material: there’s a booklet with writing by Beat expert Ann Charters and poet Anne Waldman, a repro of the invite to the poetry reading of ’56 held at City Lights bookstore, a photo of the man at his typewriter, and a reprint of the City Lights Pocket Poets edition of the work that impacted so many lives and challenged so many norms. It’s all certainly appropriate regarding the poetry’s import and looks cool as hell, but the main attraction is a translucent red vinyl repress of the Fantasy Records LP from ’59. Hearing “Howl” read by its creator still delivers a major charge, stripping away time’s extraneous bullshit and getting to its protest core. Before braying it’s no longer relevant, just take a look around. A+

Langley Schools Music Project, Innocence & Despair (Bar/None) When this collection of ’70s Canadian elementary schoolers doing pop-rock tunes under the aegis of a cool music teacher emerged in back in 2001, it was a bit of a sensation, and deservedly so, as it delivered an extended dose of youthful goodness that seems impossible to resist; over the years I’ve witnessed it unrankle more than a few curmudgeons, and if you need a taste of human decency to offset the drag-me-downs of existence, it’s a surefire remedy. Putting the kibosh on any twee tendencies and resonating emotionally in a way that music created for children almost always doesn’t, to swipe from Tosches, it’s really the school assembly that transcendeth all knowing. And “The Long and Winding Road” gets me every time. A

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Graded on a Curve: New
in Stores, February 2018, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for February, 2018. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Astrid Sonne, Human Lines (Escho) Based in Copenhagen, Sonne has a classical background and a budding interest in electronic composition. This is her debut, and its quality is in some way explained by her experience in creating site-specific compositions for installations. Human Lines has been described as an attempt to balance mechanical and organic musical elements, and I’d say she’s pulled it off without a hitch. Well-tagged as abstract, Sonne’s work has range; a few spots, like the beginning of “Real,” register as highly caffeinated versions of the stuff heard on early avant-garde electronic albums, though most of the duration is tied to more recent techno developments. A striking exception is closer “Alta,” which is a string piece hovering between drone and modernist classical. A-

Grand Veymont, Route du vertige (Objet Disque) Grand Veymont is the French duo of Béatrice Morel Journel and Josselin Varengo, who after playing separately in a bunch of other outfits decided to team up in formation of a concept they call “salon de Krautrock.” More specifically, on their second release (after a 2016 EP) they offer four long to longer tracks that should hit lovers of Broadcast and Stereolab right in the sweet spot. It should especially tickle those who dug it when Stereolab really stretched out. However, Route du vertige isn’t so easily summarized, as the final track’s 14 minutes begin with a Brit-folky flute fest. Once the drugs kick in, they head into a Doors-like zone, though it’s reflected through the lens of the Paisley Underground, and with lots of French femme vocals. I love it. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Laughing Hyenas, Merry Go Round & You Can’t Pray a Lie (Third Man) It’s useful to keep in mind that the ’80s US rock underground was more than the acts featured in Our Band Could Be Your Life. Much more. Like many of the subjects in Michael Azerrad’s book, Ann Arbor, MI’s Laughing Hyenas’ roots are in hardcore; raw throat behemoth John Brannon was the voice of Negative Approach, while guitarist Larissa Strickland played in L-Seven (not L7), a post-punk unit that hovered on the fringes of the Midwest HC scene. Third Man will be reissuing the Hyenas entire output on LP, beginning here with the ’95 expansion of their ’87 EP and it’s ’89 follow-up. The sound is industrial strength punk blues, owing much to The Stooges and especially The Birthday Party. Recorded by Butch Vig, it still slays. B+/ A-

Sun Kil Moon, Ghosts of the Great Highway (Rough Trade) The first album by Mark Kozelek’s band post Red House Painters, released by Jetset in 2003, though the original limited 2LP, the sequencing of which Rough Trade’s set duplicates, was issued simultaneously by Cameron Crowe’s Vinyl Films. In ’07 Kozelek put out a 2CD on his Caldo Verde label, but this repress (designated as “one time only”) should please fans who want the wax but can’t or won’t drop hundreds of bones for an original. Musically, it’s a fine listen, essentially picking up where the Painters left off (RHP drummer Anthony Koutsos is in the lineup), and with a strong batch of songs (all by Kozelek) with a partial focus on pugilists; one of those, the extended “Duk Koo Kim” (spreading across side three) spotlights the band and is a standout. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New
in Stores, February 2018, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for February, 2018. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Brigid Mae Power, The Two Worlds (Tompkins Square) Power’s self-titled 2016 LP, also for Tompkins Square, benefited from the confluence of a raised profile and a considerable artistic leap forward. Listening to it then, it fleetingly reminded me of Tim Buckley, Cat Power, Joanna Newsom, Nico and more. She cut that disc in Portland, Oregon with Peter Broderick; this one was recorded, again with Broderick, in Galway, Ireland, the city in which she mostly grew up. Power describes it as far from a rosy move, but the “repressive and oppressive environment” was conducive to her finishing “Don’t Shut Me Up Politely,” which is amongst the highpoints on this psych-folk beauty. Another standout is the exquisitely outsider-edgy “Down on the Ground.” An altogether superb release. A

Jerry David DeCicca, Time the Teacher (Impossible Ark) DeCicca is probably still best-known for fronting Black Swans; this LP might change that. Hopefully, it doesn’t get lost in the current bustle. Per Time the Teacher’s notes, these songs were written after a move to Texas with cats and a loved one, but DeCicca didn’t want it to sound typically Texan, and in consort with producers Jeb Loy Nichols and Benedic Lambin, he’s succeeded. While the root is singer-songwriter of a ’70s sort, the decision to backseat guitar for piano, horns, and soulful vocal backing brings a deep breath of fresh air that resists easy comparisons. However, “Kiss a Love Goodbye” is a bit like Randy Newman in confessional mode with a mid-song dose of reeds reminiscent of Lambchop circa How I Quit Smoking. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Shudder to Think, Ten Spot (Dischord) & Pony Express Record (B-Core Disc) Over the years I’ve noticed folks occasionally downgrading Ten Spot, but upon reflection and a few fresh spins I can’t get with those assessments at all. I heavily dug Shudder’s art-glam-post-harDCore merger from the point of their debut (and especially the anthemic wail of “Let it Ring”), but Ten Spot got lots of play in the first car I ever owned with a tape deck, and a few decades later it hasn’t slipped in my estimation a bit. Of course, by Pony Express Record, with a retooled lineup and a move to Epic Records (a final Dischord 45 gave a taste of what was in store), they were a machine to be reckoned with. Of the ’90s indie-to-major label records that hardly anybody bought, it remains among the very best. A-/ A

Chet Baker, Sings (Wax Love) All of the ’50s Baker vocal albums have their charms, and unless you simply can’t abide jazz singing or just dislike Chet (hey, some people do), you’ll do good getting this one. Record three for Riverside, Chet Baker Sings It Could Happen to You, has the best band (Kenny Drew, Sam Jones, Philly Joe), but this set, the first of two for Pacific Jazz, has the appeal of being, well, first. But in fact, that’s side two of this LP, recorded in ’54 and originally released on 10-inch. Side one was cut two years later, after the material that comprises Chet Baker Sings and Plays…Got it? Folks have argued that without his matinee idol looks and the tone of his skin these opportunities wouldn’t have come to Baker, and I don’t disagree at all. But it’s not like he couldn’t sing. And his sound remains unique. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New
in Stores, February 2018, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for February, 2018.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Kevin Sun, Trio (Endectomorph Music) If you’re into pianoless trios with a horn up front, you’ll not want to miss this one. Sun has recorded previously in the collective quartets Great On Paper and Earprint, but this is his first release under his own name, spotlighting him on tenor, c-melody sax, and clarinet with Walter Stinson on bass and Matt Honor on drums. As I listened, the promo text’s mentions of Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz rang true, and the way the band engages with tradition while eschewing the straight ahead brought Steve Lacy to mind. Much of these 71-minutes can be described as cerebral, even the reading of “All Of Me,” but occasionally they step fully outside, as on “One Never Knows Now,” which reminded me of ’70s Braxton teamed up with Milford Graves and Alan Silva. A

Ezra Feinberg, Pentimento and others (Related States) Guitarist Feinberg was the leader of San Francisco psychsters Citay. After folding that band in 2012, he moved to Brooklyn and shifted focus to marriage, family, and work as a psychanalyst. Less positively, he lost a friend and early artistic mentor to cancer. But the pull of musicmaking is a strong one. Rather than attempt to pick up where he left off (impossible), Feinberg embraced growth and changes, and the results are splendid. Psychedelia is still an ingredient, but the instrumental net Pentimento casts is wide, including recurring strains of ambient-drone-New Age, NYC Minimalist repetition, a whole lot of fingerpicking, and on finale “Experience Near,” the pedal steel of guest Pete Grant. An altogether fine reentry to the scene. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Shuggie Otis, Inspiration Information (8th) When this was reissued back in 2001, it was a revelation. Originally released by Epic in ’74, Otis’ fourth album was severely overlooked and then promptly all but forgotten; subsequently, used copies were scarce, at least around my digs, and while I knew Shuggie through his dad’s band, Kooper Session and Zappa’s Hot Rats, I was frankly unprepared for what emerged through the auspices of David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label. “Holy smokes, this thing is magnificent!” I recall gushing at the time. Since then, having listened more and gathered perspective, I’ve reined in the enthusiasm, but only a little, as this blend of psychedelic soul, Curtis, Marvin, and Otis’ own thing remains a brilliant achievement, and one still accurately tagged as magnificent. A

Country Joe and the Fish, Electric Music for the Mind and Body & I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die (Craft) These two slabs are part of Craft’s 4LP stereo-and-mono-mix collector set Wave of Electrical Sound, which comes with an assortment of bells and whistles and an unseen by me 30-minute doc on DVD. But the stereo versions are available separately, so we’ll approach them that way. Electric Music is an essential serving of original San Francisco psychedelia, and one that gets not nearly enough contemporary love. Yes, it’s dated, but in the best way possible; cut for indie Vanguard, the contents are undiluted stuff. By Fixin’ To Die, which opens with the “clean,” jug-bandy version of their best-known tune, they’d begun to slip, but the whole is better than some detractors, who probably hate hippies, claim. A/ A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, January 2018, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for January, 2018. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Jeff Snyder, Sunspots (Carrier) Composer, improviser, instrument-designer, holder of a Music Composition doctorate from Columbia, and Director of Electronic Music at Princeton, Snyder has worked in a variety of groups, and after numerous appearances on comps this is his debut album, offered on 2LP in a gatefold sleeve and as a digital DL in both stereo and quadrophonic versions. Using a 1970s Buchla synth controlled by his Snyderphonics JD-1 keyboard/sequencer, the four side-long 18-minute pieces recall the heyday of avant-garde electronic music, but without the bleep-and-bloop that sometimes dates those perfectly fine records. Instead, there’s a congruence to later experimental electronic stuff, so fans of Pan Sonic, Matmos, and Merzbow should investigate. A major work. A

Belle Adair, Tuscumbia (Single Lock) The second album from this Florence, AL four-piece was recorded at their hometown FAME studios, but don’t go jumping to any conclusions regarding their sound. Instead of working in a style that’s tangibly Southern, they dish out a strain of guitar pop that’s less geographically situated. Sure, Belle Adair’s influences include Big Star, who are assuredly in the Southern USA’s musical Hall of Greats, but the list also features Teenage Fanclub. Produced by Tom Schick, Tuscumbia fruitfully delves into a strum-glide zone instead of dishing riffy power-pop action, with the songs, singing (which occasionally brings The Clientele to mind), and playing strong throughout. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Bert Jansch, A Man I’d Rather Be (Part 1) (Earth) Recently, the work of this Brit-folk cornerstone has been relatively easy to obtain (it wasn’t always that way), but for interested parties who have yet to scoop up a few of his albums, this, Earth’s first installment in the corralling of his prime early discs (Part 2 arrives next month) is a gift destined to give decades of pleasure. Jansch has influenced hordes of aspiring fingerpickers, more than a handful of them notable, and his work has aged hardly a bit. This 4LP casebound box set (also available on CD) collects his self-titled debut and It Don’t Bother Me (both ’65) and Jack Orion and his collab with future Pentangle bandmate John Renbourn Bert and John (both ’66). Don’t think for a sec that you don’t need this stuff in your life. A+

Robbie Basho, Live in Forli, Italy 1982 (ESP-Disk/Obsolete Recordings) Along with John Fahey and Leo Kottke, Basho comprises the big three original American Primitive guitarists. Due in part to his death from a stroke in 1986 (he was just 45), his discography is smaller than his counterparts, but much of it is downright gorgeous, and this ’82 show adds to the luster. There is some overlap with the Bonn Ist Supreme CD, which captured a 1980 German performance, but that won’t stop heavy-duty fans (who were likely already familiar with this show as an incomplete download) from picking it up. The selections span from ’66’s The Grail and the Lotus to ’81’s Rainbow Thunder: Songs of the American West; yes, he does sing, but to these ears, that’s not a problem. CD available 1/26, vinyl 2/23. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, January 2018, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for January, 2018. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Phew, Voice Hardcore (Mesh-Key) Phew (real name Hiromi Moritani) is an integral part of the Japanese underground; she fronted the Osaka punk band Aunt Sally, her debut 7-inch was produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto, her first LP featured guests Conny Plank and members of Can, and she’s remained quite active since. Voice Hardcore emerged as a tour CD last year, but this is the vinyl edition, and as an excursion into the possibilities of Phew’s voice and Phew’s voice alone, it’s a captivating and unpredictable listen. The title might suggest unrestrained throat aggression, but the results are less throttling and more enveloping. Indeed, opener “Cloudy Day” is reminiscent of Ligeti in its textured drift, and “In the Doghouse” is a marvel of sonic breadth and repetition. A

Wooing, “Daydream Time Machine” (Ba Da Bing!) Here’s the debut 3-song EP from the new band of Rachel Trachtenburg, who as a youngster was part of the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, and later was in Supercute! and the Prettiots. Although she’s a multi-instrumentalist (she drummed in TFSP), Trachtenburg handles vocals here, with JR Thomason on guitar and Rosie Slater behind the kit. Their sound is an unambiguous extension of ’90s indie; of the comparisons that others have floated, I’m most in agreement with Helium, and to a lesser extent The Breeders. They do combine Mary Timony’s mastery of mood with the Deals’ knack with a song, and the results are raw, occasionally dark, and best of all, amenable to volume. “In Colour” inches toward psych. “Tear World” is the pick by a nose. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Dinosaur L, (Get on Down) “Go Bang” and “In the Corn Belt” (Get on Down) Dinosaur L is often simply lumped into the magnetic eclecticism of the late and great Arthur Russell, but it’s worth noting upfront that these two tracks, split into parts with the original versions found on the 24->24 Music LP (released in ’82 via Russell and William Socolov’s Sleeping Bag Records), is the byproduct of a band. A studio band, sure, and one directed by Russell, but a band nonetheless, featuring the input of the Ingram brothers, Julius Eastman and others. They played disco, a prototype for art-disco to be specific, with Francois Kevorkian remixing “Go Bang” and Larry Levan handling “In the Corn Belt,” and these 45s will hopefully enliven many a DJ night across 2018 and beyond. A-/ A-

Indian Ocean, (Get on Down) “School Bell / Treehouse” 12-inch (Get on Down) As the PR for this reissue notes, Arthur Russell suffered from an inability to finish projects, leaving him with only one completed full-length solo effort prior to his untimely death from HIV in 1992. Russell’s working method also caused him to part ways with his Sleeping Bag partner William Socolov, but as his health began to deteriorate, he approached his friend to cut this 12-inch, his last for the label, which was also his final collab with friend Walter Gibbons. By this point, Sleeping Bag was focusing on early hip-hop, so this disc probably got lost in the shuffle, but it shouldn’t’ve, as it’s a treat of avant-groove. Sure, I’d welcome a higher ratio of distorted cello lines, but what’s here is still a lovely (and bittersweet) sound. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, January 2018, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for January, 2018. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Leah Calvert, Satellite (Vera Hellcat) Amongst other bands and activities, Atlanta-based fiddler, vocalist, and songwriter Calvert is a member of the Dappled Grays, but this, her debut solo effort, is my first exposure to her work, and it’s quite the pleasant introduction. The initial selections establish a mainstream pop singer-songwriter foundation with some rock inflection, though in part through sturdiness of vocals the atmosphere is far from insubstantial. By the title cut (the fourth of ten tracks) it’s clear that the tunes are deeper than the norm for this style, and the playing, which includes not enough bowing from Calvert, elevates matters even higher. Additionally, “Sleep” is a flat-out rocker, and her version of Tom Waits’ “Day After Tomorrow” is a late album gem. A-

Unlikely Friends, Crooked Numbers (Swoon) Like other regions, the Pacific Northwest is known for genres, but it’s guitar pop productivity has been often undervalued. I’m talking Stag. I’m talking Posies. I’m talking Young Fresh Fellows. I’m talking Dharma Bums. I’m talking Fastbacks, people. And right now, I’m talking Unlikely Friends, who feature members of BOAT and Math and Physics Club. Repping a Seattle Tacoma Olympia melodic rock triangle, they’ve got songs, some anthemic others jangly, while oozing plentiful amp edge and clear knowledge of tradition. They also integrate elements, like the drumbox in “39 Steps” for instance, that eschew a throwback feel. There’s humor, too. If ya’ dig any of the above names (and Doug Martsch and/or Weezer, for that matter), don’t sleep on this one. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Big Star, Live at Lafayette’s Music Room (Omnivore) Some casual observers might be wondering if the stream of Big Star (and related) reissues has reached a point of diminishing returns, but this first-time on vinyl edition of a January 1973 show is anything but the overmilking of a cash cow. Captured just after #1 Record was released to a cricket-like response and the resulting departure of Chris Bell, we find Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens, and Andy Hummel adapting to their subsequent trio reality while opening for Archie Bell & the Drells in front of a largely indifferent crowd. First heard as part of the Keep an Eye on the Sky box set, this stand-alone 2LP delivers more than historical import. If the set is imperfect, there are plenty of highs, and they navigate a tough period with class and verve. A-

Rising Storm, Calm Before (Sundazed) I’m far from the first to say it, but ’60s garage LPs tend to be spotty affairs. Not this one. Cut by a bunch of teens during their senior year at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, this is one of the rare long-players in the style that doesn’t wither when the needle hits the originals, which are folk-rocky and gently psych-tinged here. As the covers, which include the Remains, Love, Wilson Pickett, and Jimmy Reed, are well-executed, this is doubly impressive. Those who want their garage infused with a modicum of sneer and snot might find this album wanting, but there’s an equally strong chance the sound of six guys on the brink of adulthood doing it for the sheer love of it will bowl them right the fuck over. Original copies go for stupid money, so garage lovers WILL want. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, January 2018, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for January, 2018.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Profligate, Somewhere Else (Wharf Cat) Most current stabs at synth-pop yank my chain hardly at all. I mention this due to Wharf Cat listing Depeche Mode under the heading of R.I.Y.L. in the promo attachment for Profligate’s latest record. It’s a valid supposition, as much of this does fall under an electronically-derived melodic umbrella, especially “Black Plate,” but there’re big dollops of techno-abrasiveness that might agitate the nerves of a typical Mode fan. I’m just guessing, though. Since 2016, this project of Noah Anthony has been a duo with the input of Elaine Kahn, whose vocals are a distinct asset. Although the edginess oozes an avant-garde flavor, Somewhere Else can still be tagged as darkwave-derived, conjuring images of seasonally appropriate black turtlenecks and clove cigs. A-

Makaya McCraven, Highly Rare (International Anthem) This came out a little while back, but I just caught up with it over the break, and its sounds are too choice to not slide in a mention as the clock begins ticking on 2018. Cut in Chicago’s Danny’s Tavern in late November of 2016 by McCraven on drums, Junius Paul on bass guitar, Nick Mazzarella on alto sax, and Ben Lamar Gay on cornet, diddley bow, and voice, the tapes were then extensively edited (which is to say, looped, layered, and stretched) by McCraven; that the results, often captivating, have been described as combining free jazz and hip-hop is accurate, though there are no traces of genre-stitching. Some may persist in considering the abundant post-show transformation antithetical to jazz, but nah; methinks Teo Macero would approve mightily. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Betty Davis, Nasty Gal (Light in the Attic) Davis’ too small discography attained its pinnacle with this slab of hard funk from the middle of the ’70s, but the lack of sales effectively halted her career; the subsequent Is It Love or Desire? was cut in ’76, but didn’t see release until 2009. Davis’ unashamed sexual image surely contributed to the public’s cool response, but the music’s intensity no doubt played a role as well. When she and her band Funk House go full-bore, which is often, the results radiate a punk temperament, though overall, it’s nearer to the celebration of strangeness found on the ZE Records roster than the fratty freakiness of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Nasty Gal is a record so sharp that even the roll-call tribute track “F.U.N.K.” registers as essential. A

Smart Went Crazy, Con Art (Ernest Jenning Record Co.) Chad Clark’s recent return to activity as the singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer of Beauty Pill has been welcome, and a reissue of his prior outfit’s second record enhances this turn of events quite nicely. Like the early Beauty Pill material, Smart Went Crazy’s two full-lengths were originally issued by Dischord, where their sound—arty, articulate, and cello-shaded courtesy of Hilary Soldati, sprouted from fertile post-hardcore soil to deepen an especially strong period for the label. Not enough people heard ‘em though, so this set, which includes everything from the ’97 CD edition plus an exclusive track on double clear vinyl (‘twas formerly a single LP) should get some ears up to speed. The design by Henry Owings is characteristically sweet. A-

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